CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 28 October 2021

All the latest martech and adtech news from CM Group, Cheetah Digital, Twilio, Alida, Influ2, Vonage, Alteryx, Braze and Smart Eye

CM Group and Cheetah Digital orchestrate merger

Multichannel marketing automation vendor, Cheetah Digital, and CM Group, owner of brands such as Campaign Monitor, Liveclicker and Sailthru, have struck a merger agreement.

The deal sees Cheetah Digital come under the CM Group name in a deal designed to expand and enhance both companies’ ability to deliver email, omnichannel, personalisation and loyalty solutions to marketers. CM owns nine products in the digital marketing tech space, focused largely on verticals or market segments such as retail, ecommerce, publishing and entertainment.

The company said Cheetah Digital expands its reach into the large enterprise segment, with a client list that includes Hilton, Neiman Marcus, Walgreens and Williams-Sonoma.

CM Group said it’ll follow up the merger with significant investments across the portfolio to bring new products to 70,000 active customers globally. The name of the game is extending out from email marketing to a broader customer engagement play across acquisition, engagement and retention.

“Our merger with Cheetah Digital means CM Group will be well positioned to meet the needs of customers of all sizes and shapes, and we will continue to be their marketing technology partner as they grow by delivering the right technology at the right time, tailored to their industry and built for the scale at which they operate,” said CM Group CEO, Wellford Dillard.  

The existing owners of CM Group, including Insight Partners, remain majority owners of the combined company, while Vector Capital, previously a majority owner of Cheetah Digital, becomes a substantial minority owner.

CM Group plans to continue looking for further ways to augment product capabilities across its portfolio. The group’s brands are Campaign Monitor, Emma, Vuture, Delivra, Liveclicker, Sailthru and Selligent.

Twilio bolsters engagement play

Twilio has taken the wrappers off Twilio Engage, a platform combining its digital channel management offering with the recently acquired Segment customer data platform (CDP) business.

Pitched as a ‘growth automation platform’, Twilio Engage sits as one pillar under Twilio’s Customer Engagement Platform (CEP). Key functionality integrated includes a CDP offering, data integration, analytics and real-time insights, reporting and experimentation tools, messaging and communication APIs and automation capabilities. 

Using Twilio Engage, marketers can build audience groups at a micro level for personalised engagement across digital channels, build and optimise tailored campaigns, and monitor campaigns and engagements in one place, the vendor said. Twilio Engage is in pilot with general availability expected in Q1, 2022.

“We believe Twilio Engage is going to disrupt marketing and customer engagement,” claimed Twilio Segment CEO, Peter Reinhardt. “Until today, no single platform has made it possible to power personalised interactions across the entire customer journey. Twilio Engage delivers true end-to-end customer engagement by giving businesses the best customer data, powerful messaging capabilities and unlimited API extensibility.”

Alida debuts fresh experience management enhancements

Alida (formerly Vision Critical) has debuted the latest edition of its experience management platform for customer, employee, product and brand management.

Fresh product features include artificial intelligence (AI)-driven text analytics and dashboards, improvements to administrative task management for Alida Touchpoint users and easier integration into hundreds of third-party customer systems. These allows customers to better analyse external data as well as unstructured data to categorise perceptions into taxonomies based on recurring themes, design experiences using more granular drivers of customer sentiment such as ambience or location, and modify variable fields to reflect target demographics. They can also better control access permissions and share insights in enhanced dashboards.

Alida has also introduced a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) solution to help organisations ensure DE&I is better managed across the enterprise. It does this by helping organisations probe into employee sentiment, bring customer voices into product design processes, and help collect and analyse feedback on DE&I initiatives.

“Today’s release builds on our market-leading Customer Experience Management [CXM] products and services,” said Alida president of products and engineering, Riaz Raihan. “With Alida’s DE&I offering, organisations can now truly uncover employee sentiment and manage DE&I programs that have impact.”

B2B adtech player raises US$8m

US-based Influ2 has raised US$8 million in Series A funding for its buying group marketing solution.

Co-founded by CEO, Dmitri Lisitski, and CTO, Vladimir Mikhalko, Influ2 is creating a purpose-built B2B marketing platform to serve ads to specific decision-makers via display and social networks, then capture engagement at an individual level. The pair are calling their offering ‘people-based advertising’.

The Series A funding round was led by Rally Ventures and supported by a personal investment from Sprout Social president, Ryan Barretto. The investment will be used by Influ2 to scale up product development as well as support continued US and team expansion.

“At the heart of account-based marketing [ABM] is a buying group that ultimately makes the decisions. That’s why we developed Influ2,” said Lisitski. “This investment will help Influ2 extend beyond advertising, allowing marketers to achieve more precision by extending their buying group marketing approach more holistically across their programs.”

Influ2’s platform is used by several startups including Amplitude, Papaya Global and Optimove.

Vonage acquires conversational commerce solution

This week’s conversational analytics news comes from Vonage, which has acquired Singapore-based conversational commerce offering, Jumper.ai, for an undisclosed sum.

Vonage said the deal will allow it to complement existing Vonage Communications APIs with packaged, AI-enabled social messaging and conversational commerce tools from Jumper.ai. The latter’s offering includes functionality to create omnichannel, messaging-first customer engagement and shopping journeys across social, messaging and Web channels.

Under terms of the agreement, Jumper.ai’s team joins Vonage’s product and engineering group. Vonage will also incorporate Jumper.ai technology to expand its total addressable market and complement its portfolio of APIs.

“The addition of Jumper.ai’s conversational commerce and omnichannel capabilities… transforms customer interactions from notifications and simple communications to conversations across the spectrum of customer engagement points,” said Vonage CEO, Rory Read. “With conversational commerce capabilities, we are meeting new and existing customer needs now and are positioned to continue to meet their evolving needs well into the future, providing businesses with embedded commerce capabilities to simplify the way they serve, connect with, and sell to their own customers from anywhere, on any channel.”

Alteryx buys Hyper Anna

Our second acquisition this week is by Alteryx, which has purchased AI insights business, Hyper Anna. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Sydney-based Hyper Anna is focused on making it easier for people across an organisation to access AI-driven insights. Alteryx said the acquisition and integration of its automated analytics with Hyper Anna’s offering will allow it to automate the end-to-end analytic pipeline from data sources to AI-driven insights.

Specific use cases include unearthing outliers or anomalies in data, scaling automated insights to determine key trends in data, and building out stories around the data, no matter the user’s level of technical experience for decision making.

“Hyper Anna’s mission to enable everyone, regardless of analytical background, to access data insights aligns perfectly with the Alteryx vision to enable every person to transform data into a breakthrough,” said Alteryx chief executive officer, Mark Anderson. “With this acquisition, we are thrilled to offer a joint solution that empowers our customers to derive world-class, human insights that matter, adding value to every line of business time and time again.”

Hyper Anna CEO, Natalie Nguyen, said working with Alteryx brings about capabilities “far greater than the sum of their respective parts” including more insights, visualisations and reporting features.

“The Alteryx vision aligns so genuinely with what we set out to do at Hyper Anna and I could not be more excited to see where we can go from here,” she added.

Braze files for IPO

Cross-channel campaign management platform, Braze, has filed an IPO registration with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to list on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol, ‘Brze’.

The size of the offering is being pitched as US$100 million, with the proposed offering made available through a prospectus. The number of shares to be offered has not yet been determined. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Barclays are acting as joint lead book-running managers for the proposed offering.

New York-headquartered Braze is a 10-year-old company that provides a customer campaign management platform for ingesting data to build audience segments that can then be used to orchestrate and optimise contextual digital marketing campaigns. The company rebranded from AppBoy to Braze in 2017.

According to its SEC filing, Braze reported a quarterly revenue run rate of US$223 million, 55 per cent up year-on-year, with a net loss of $13 million. For its fiscal year 2021, Braze reported revenue of US$150.2 million and net losses of $32 million. The company claims to have more than 1000 customers and 3 billion active monthly users today.

Smart Eye picks up iMotions

Smart Eye has entered into an agreement to acquire iMotions for US$46.6 million.

Smart Eye offers advanced eye tracking and emotion AI technologies. The plan is to combine these with iMotions’ multiple sensor data collection and analytics software in order create a stronger human behavioural research and analysis offering. Together, the pair said they will provide an end-to-end, multi-modal approach to analysing and delivering more holistic human insights.

Under terms of the acquisition, iMotions will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Smart Eye Group and continue to run independently under the stewardship of CEO, Peter Hartzbech.

IMotions is a 15-year-old business using real-time integrates data streams from more than 50 biosensors, as well as other explicit measures, to create a unified research platform for understanding human behaviours. The list of streamlined data from multiple sources, both implicit and explicit, to become integrated into one platform include eye tracking, facial expression analysis, sweat gland activity, brain activity, heart rate, field surveys and focus groups.

Smart Eye said it plans to accelerate iMotions’ product innovation, particularly in remote and mobile data collection and analysis, by providing access to capital and expertise in machine learning and data acquisition and annotation.

“The next decade is going to see an amazing expansion of human behavioural research using multi-modal approaches. The addition of iMotions and its multi-sensor integration software promises to unlock increased value for Smart Eye’s current customers, particularly in the automotive industry, while opening the door to others,” said Smart Eye founder and CEO, Martin Krantz.

This deal comes off the back of Smart Eye’s recent acquisition of Affectiva, which focuses on the automotive interior sensing market.

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