CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 5 August 21

All the latest martech and adtech news this week from Qualtrics, Clarabridge, Hootsuite, Yellow.ai, The Trade Desk, Shutterstock, Tapjoy, Podium and Gupshup.

Qualtrics acquires Clarabridge for US$1.125bn

Qualtrics has acquired conversational analytics player, Clarabridge, in a deal worth US$1.125 billion.

Clarabridge’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform captures and analyses customer feedback from indirect sources such as social media, email, customer support calls, chats and product reviews. The company also boasts of the ability to understand human nuances such as effort, emotion and intent. Its language solutions work across 23 languages and 150 industry models.  

Qualtrics said these capabilities, combined with its existing experience management solutions for customer and employee insight, will allow clients to tap into, analyse and action data to drive business decision making. The purchase price is a combination of stock and cash payments, with the deal expected to close in Q4, 2021.  

“With our acquisition of Clarabridge, we’re accelerating our growth and leadership as the world’s number one experience management company and taking the category we created to an entirely new level,” claimed Qualtrics CEO, Zig Serafin.

“Clarabridge’s ability to help companies discover what their customers are saying about them across unstructured sources and provide meaningful, actionable insights is a perfect complement to the Qualtrics platform,” added Clarabridge CEO, Mark Bishof. “What we deliver is far more powerful as part of Qualtrics.”

Hootsuite buys conversational commerce player

Another on the acquisitions trail this week is social media management vendor, Hootsuite, which plans to purchase Heyday, a conversational commerce platform for retailers, for US$48 million. 

Heyday’s customer messaging platform integrates seamlessly with ecommerce platforms. Brands using the platform to deliver interactions via chat and video include Lacoste, Decathlon, Cirque du Soleil, Danone and Jack & Jones.

Hootsuite said the acquisition will allow its clients to use Heydey’s AI-powered tools to connect and serve shoppers in real-time through their preferred social media platform. The deal comes six months after Hootsuite purchased Sparkcentral, which provides a platform to engage customers through messaging. Both are part of plans to offer a complete set of tools for customers to deliver an end-to-end customer care platform oriented around social, Hootsuite said. 

“Social is the new interface of commerce and customer care,” Hootsuite CEO, Tom Keiser, said. “Modern day brands have to manage a multitude of daily interactions and conversations at scale, which is impossible to do without AI automation. With the acquisition of Heyday, Hootsuite will now give AI capabilities to marketing, sales and support teams globally so they can deliver exceptional experiences at scale.”

Conversational messaging platform secures US$240m

Yet another conversational messaging vendor scoring the big bucks is Gupshup, which has secured US$240 million.

The investment injection comes from a group of investors including Fidelity Management and Research Company, Tiger Global, Think Investments, Malabar Investments and Harbor Spring Capital.

The funds are earmarked for a partial share buyback from employees and existing investors as well as for growth plans. The latest funding follows a former $100m round led by Tiger Global in April.

Gupshup provides a conversational messaging platform for marketing, sales and service and powers more than 6 billion messages per month. The single messaging API can connect to 30 channels and offers a conversational experience-building tool kit for a variety of case. It’s also building a network of emerging market partnerships across messaging channels, device manufacturers, ISVs and operators.

In a blog post, co-founder and CEO, Beerud Sheth, said Gupshup had doubled staff strength across engineering, product, marketing, sales and customer success and expanded its management team. The company is now looking to expand via recruiting as well as M&A.

“We have accelerated our product innovation in Conversational AI to enable the creation of intelligent bots and improve on-device messaging experiences. We are strengthening our AI tools and Workbench along with pre-built, pre-tested AI data models that work in a plug-and-play mode,” he stated. “We have launched conversational solutions to enable digital commerce businesses.”

Yellow.AI scores US$78.15m

Also securing a sizeable investment this week is customer experience automation platform, Yellow.AI, raising US$78.15m in its latest Series C funding round.

The latest investment round was led by WestBridge Capital along with Sapphire Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners. This brings total funding into Yellow.AI to date to $102.15m.

Yellow.ai’s platform differentiation point is a proprietary natural processing language engine and platform to build chatbots and voice bots. These can then be employed in customer support and engagement, conversational commerce and employee experience. The platform comes pre-integrated with enterprise applications like Salesforce, Shopify, Cisco, Avaya and SharePoint and supports more than 100 languages across 35 channels.

According to the company, recurring revenue has grown by 470 per cent and hundreds of new customers have come on-onboard since the last fundraising round.

The latest capital will be used to strengthen leadership in 50 countries including India, Southeast Asia, UK, Middle East and Latin America, establish a strong presence in the US, and add 70 employees to its 500+ global headcount. It’s also looking to splurge on R&D to drive hyper-automation.

Conviva and The Trade Desk buddy up

Streaming media management vendor, Conviva, has partnered up with The Trade Desk to provide advertisers with the ability to target TV campaigns based on contextual content signals.

The two companies said joining forces will help premium publishers supply programmatic buyers with the network, genre, rating, length and other detailed data lacking in the streaming industry while still maintaining data control. Conviva sources census and real-time content metadata from the video players of premium publishers. Its Stream Sensor technology is embedded in 3.3 billion streaming video applications and measures more than 500 million unique viewers and 2 trillion real-time transactions daily across 180 countries.

The partnership is a direct response to insights from Conviva’s State of Streaming Advertising report, which found less than four in 10 buyers believe they have the data to run streaming ad campaigns effectively. Only 8 per cent felt streaming content has the context safe for their brands. The Trade Desk said the tie-up directly addresses these concerns and will enable it to be the first to provide customers with streaming contextual advertising.

Tapjoy debuts mobile market research solution

Tapjoy has taken the wrappers of MobileVoice, a global market research solution aimed at delivering better insights into the attitudes, preferences and behaviours of mobile consumers.

MobileVoice leverages Tapjoy’s opt-in value exchange model, which rewards consumers for engagement with mobile games and applications. The MobileVoice panel consists of more than 50 million active users from nearly 200 countries who exchange their opinions for in-app rewards.

Initial features of the debut tool include custom surveys to help brands and market researchers understand demographic and psychographic characteristics driving audience behaviours. There are also custom API integrations to connect Tapjoy to research agencies, as well as a ‘brand & campaign health’ tool for understanding how consumers perceive a brand and ad campaigns in terms of awareness, affinity and other brand metrics.

Audience activation then allows marketers to utilise survey insights to create dynamic segments on the Tapjoy ad platform, while a survey-based SDK enables app developers to drive additional incremental revenue. The offering also incorporates first-party data on more than 50 million monthly active users in 200 countries across 20,000 mobile apps and is supported by quality checks including IP geolocation and ID verification.

Shutterstock makes trio of AI acquisitions

Image and video provider, Shutterstock, has launched a new Shutterstock.AI subsidiary after acquiring three AI platforms: Pattern89, Datasine and Shotzr. Shutterstock paid approximately US$35 million for the trio.

Shutterstock said the three acquisitions give it the foundation to build its own predictive performance capabilities for creatives to help drive more data-informed content decisions. Pattern89 provides industry-level and custom insights for predictive performance down to insights on colours, copy and emojis, and workflows for real-time campaign performance monitoring. Datasine’s AI algorithms analyse creative elements and also provide intelligence on past campaign performance of digital assets as well as recommendations for optimising their performance. Shotzr uses human responsiveness to imagery and applies insights for predictive analysis to improve selection.

In the near term, Shutterstock.AI is tasked with commercialising data assets within the company’s content library, which incorporates more than 400 million images, videos, music tracks and 3D models, as well as partner with third parties to grow capabilities in computer vision and content insights to power the next generation of AI models.

“To complement this, Shutterstock.AI will also help new customer segments accelerate the development of artificial intelligence, by unlocking the power of the data associated with our vast content library,” Shutterstock CEO, Stan Pavlovsky.

Podium arrives in Australia

Messaging platform, Podium, has made its official debut in Australia with the aim of bringing its communications and payments platform to more local businesses.

The US-based company has 90,000 clients across the US, Canada and Australia. Following a quadrupling of local customers since the start of the pandemic and a high of 6 million messages sent and received, the decision was made to set up shop locally under country manager, Dave Scheine. Podium has 65 employees in Australia and plans to nearly double that over the coming 12 months.

The SMS messaging platform helps local businesses receive reviews, collect payments, send SMS campaigns and communicate with customers on the platforms they prefer. Podium’s centralised platform aggregates communications from channels such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and TripAdvisor.

“SMS text messages have a 98 per cent open rate and three in four consumers would prefer to interact with a business via text,” Scheine commented. “What this demonstrates is that mobile communications is more than a ‘nice to have’ today, it’s essential.

“Through Podium, we’re helping Australian businesses create the online presence they need and deserve.”

The company said its focus is on product innovation through current solutions and expanding the platform with new tools and operational areas to deliver a comprehensive operating system for businesses to run their front office with Podium. Podium will also focus on developing deep partnerships and alliances in key verticals, as well as diversifying into new sectors.  

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