CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 22 July 2021

All the latest martech, adtech and customer technology news from Salesforce, Slack, Zoho, SugarCRM, Zoom, Xandr, Braze, mParticle and UserTesting.

Salesforce completes US$27.7bn Slack acquisition

Salesforce has officially completed its acquisition of collaboration software vendor, Slack, seven months after announcing the US$27.7 billion deal.

Together, Salesforce and Slack said they aim to deliver a Slack-first Customer 360 that gives companies a single source of truth for their business and single platform for connecting employees, customers and partners and apps used every day and within workflows. According to Salesforce, the deal brings together two dynamic global communities and creates and open and extensive ecosystem that can deliver fresh digital-first applications and workflows for businesses.

Salesforce chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff, was excited to be combining its sales, customer, marketing, community and service solutions with Slack’s work engagement and collaboration platform.

“Together we’ll define the future of enterprise software, creating the digital HQ that enables every organisation to deliver customer and employee success from anywhere,” he said in a statement.

Slack CEO and co-founder, Stewart Butterfield, saw the deal and pandemic conditions as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink and reshape how and where we work. Under the deal, Slack will continue to operate under its own brand as well as be led by Butterfield.

“Salesforce and Slack coming together will help us become more connected, more productive, and more innovative so we can better serve our clients,” Butterfield added.

SugarCRM adds to prediction AI

SugarCRM has expanded its artificial intelligence-based (AI) capabilities with automated sentiment analysis in an effort to improve sales and customer service team support.

SugarPredict has now been embedded into the vendor’s SugarLive multi-channel customer communication application, which is used to track details of each customer interaction as its happening, and to provide access to customer information across touchpoints and channels as needed.

The latest functionality brings together natural language processing (NLP) and AI to surface sentiment analysis to sales and service teams around intent and for customer experience reviews, as well as help inform next-best actions to support the customer journey, such as escalating to a supervisor, presenting a sales offer or upsell recommendations.

MParticle shops with Shopify

Customer data platform (CDP) provider, mParticle, has created an integration with Shopify’s commerce platform to better unify and tailor the end-to-end customer journey from engagement to conversion and support.

The new integration makes more than 300 analytics, marketing, customer service, engineering and data warehouse tool integrations available through its CDP offering. MParticle said the integration is a direct response to the challenge of having valuable customer data on actions such as purchases, cart events or fulfilment status, siloed in a third-party commerce platform. Bringing this seamlessly into customer profile management will help deliver a single view of the customer across multiple touchpoints, from websites and apps to bricks-and-mortar stores, support channels, social media and ecommerce.

The company said this could then inform personalised support, follow-up on fulfilment or in the event a purchase has been cancelled, or to build new segments for marketing activities such as in-app messaging or push communications.

Zoom makes its first acquisition

Video conferencing vendor, Zoom, has made its first acquisition, purchasing contact centre solution provider, Five9, in a deal worth US$14.7 billion.

The purchase will see Five9’s contact service as-a-service interaction management solution combined with Zoom’s engagement platform and Zoom Phone, its cloud phone system, in order to shake-up how businesses connect with customers. The deal is also expected to improve Zoom’s enterprise credentials, open up cross-sell opportunities and build Zoom’s footprint in the customer service and support space.

Once the transaction has completed, Five9 will become an operating unit of Zoom. Its current CEO, Rowan Trollope, will become a president of Zoom and report to Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan. The purchase price is based on the value of Zoom stock at 16 July 2021.

“We are continuously looking for ways to enhance our platform, and the addition of Five9 is a natural fit that will deliver even more happiness and value to our customers,” Yuan said. “We believe this acquisition creates a leading customer engagement platform that will help redefine how companies of all sizes connect with their customers.”

Commenting on the deal, GlobalData principal enterprise technology and service analyst, Gary Barton, noted Zoom is under significant pressure to convert the “astonishing momentum” it achieved over the last 15 months of the Covid-19 crisis into solid, longer-term financial resolutions.

“It is no surprise Zoom sees customer contact services as a way of extending its value proposition,” he said. “GlobalData’s research has revealed that customers were already shifting towards more self-service forms of interaction with businesses such as using apps.

“COVID-19 has normalised video communications in a way that might otherwise not have been possible. In the future, video will be a primary route to market for a wide range of services as people expect a more on-demand customer experience.”

Zoho debuts self-service analytics platform

CRM and sales management vendor, Zoho, has taken the wrappers off its Business Intelligence Platform, an AI-driven offering for surfacing actionable insights through self-service data preparation and augmented analysis.

The new analytics offering combines the fresh Zoho DataPrep application for data preparation, with an enhanced version of Zoho Analytics, the vendor’s business intelligence (BI) self-service platform. This allows companies to clean, unify and analyse cross-functional data and better glean real-time insights. Functionality includes pre-built visual dashboards, data integrations, data preparation tools, built-in security and privacy capabilities and embedded and augmented BI through the conversational AI tool, Ask Zia.

There’s also an integrated enterprise portal builder (Zoho Sites) and presentation software (Zoho Show) on offer, aimed at helping better transform data into storytelling and insight for decision making. Zoho said through its apps marketplace, it’s also enabling partners to develop and publish analytics apps and integrations to complement its core platform and users.

In addition, the Zoho BI Platform is extensible to more than 250 data sources including Zendesk, Microsoft, Mailchimp, Google and HubSpot, enabling users to bring in third-party data sources for analysis. The new platform is available on-premise or as a cloud-based solution.

UserTesting aims for more diverse perspectives

Fresh features such as short testing, custom confidentiality terms and interactive visualisations are being touted by UserTesting as instrumental to better decision through its platform.

The vendor last week announced several enhancements to its UserTesting Human Insight Platform aimed at helping teams quickly validate decisions, present custom confidentiality terms when gathering feedback, and showcase sentiment and intent insights generated by machine learning.

For example, using the new short test tool, users can ask a few targeted questions that return five-minute video responses from customers. There are also new templates for common scenarios across experiences to help gather impactful feedback and perspectives across core audiences.

UserTesting said the latest safeguards for confidentiality meanwhile, help give end customers confidence that their sensitive information is being protected. With this latest release, there’s an improved and streamlined experience for presenting these custom confidentiality terms directly within the platform.

The latest interactive visualisations can be used to then highlight sentiment and intent patterns and anomalies in contributor feedback and a deeper dive into critical moments in the purchase journey. UserTesting said its new keyword map uses machine learning algorithms to gather intelligent insights and visually sort the most frequently used keyword adjectives using sentiment analysis model.

Braze looks to up the ante on customer data usage

Mobile-based customer engagement vendor, Braze, has announced several new product and partnership updates aimed at giving brands greater control of their first-party customer data.

The latest updates include fresh in-app message survey templates, along with new CDP integrations with Adobe, Amperity, RudderStack and Treasure Data to resolve customer identities and build common profiles.

There are also experimentation updates as well as enhancements to revenue reporting. Among these are conversation correlations to help brands uncover insights about customers most or least likely to convert after receiving a campaign to inform future activities, plus the ability to tie customer engagement to revenue generation through a granular last-click attribution model.

Braze said it’s also updated its journey management tool, Canvas, as well as SMS and MMS channels to simplify brands’ workflows. New features include ‘Experiment Steps’, aimed at enabling brands to A/B test and optimise individual messages, paths and actions along the customer journey. New MMS contact cards then ensure brand contact information is directly sent to customers through such messaging.

AT&T reportedly in talks to sell-off Xandr

AT&T is reportedly in talks to sell-off its Xandr advertising platform to InMobi, according to several media reports.

According to reports published in Axios, SiliconAngle and AdAge, the decision to try and offload Xandr is part of a push to jettison any non-core elements of the carrier’s operations. AT&T purchased AppNexus for US$1.6 billion in June 2018, bundling it with TV adtech company, Clyph, and rebranding the two to Xandr. Reports suggest the business, which offers both a buy-side and sell-side ad platform, has been losing millions.

AT&T last year had said it would combine Xander with WarnerMedia. More recently however, the business said it’s planning to spin out WarnerMedia into a new company with Discovery, with sources claiming Xandr is not part of such a deal. While InMobi appears the frontrunner for buying Xandr, other potential buyers suggested globally include Microsoft, Roku and Mediocean.    

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