Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Oh Shiny! Cool Marketing Technology I'd Evaluate in Detail if I Didn't Keep Getting Distrac...Oh Shiny!

I’ve seen more interesting systems recently than I have time to review in depth. Here are some quick sketches of products you may want to explore in more detail.

4-Tell offers low-cost, easily-installed product recommendations for online retailers. The story here is a combination of accessibility and sophisticated features. By accessibility, I mean just about any company can use them: there’s no installation fee, implementation takes a few hours of work (spread over a week or two), there are prebuilt connectors for common shopping carts, pricing starts at $75 per month, there’s a money-back guarantee of 10x ROI, and the actual modeling is fully automatic. By sophisticated, I means that recommendations are based on individual and group behaviors, can aim at upsell, cross sell, top sellers, or personal history; and can be modified based on user-specified rules for exclusions, promoted items, filters such as gender or region, or particular categories. This degree of control is usually reserved for advanced interaction management systems. Recommendations can appear on Web pages, mobile devices, display ads, or emails (where recommendations are updated by calls to the central server each time the email is opened). The system uploads the client’s catalog and transactions daily to reset its models. 4-Tell was launched about four years ago and currently has 200 clients serving 2 billion recommendation s per month. Its clients are mostly small retailers with $1 million to $5 million annual revenue, although the average size is growing.

Captora, which last week announced $22 million in new funding, helps companies capture more leads from social, paid search, and organic search marketing. To do this, it analyzes search terms and content on the client’s and competitors’ Web sites, identifies opportunities for new promotions, and then (almost) automatically creates landing pages tailored to each search term. The pages are linked to marketing automation forms that capture the resulting leads. That sounds pretty simple but the system tracks potentially hundreds of items, uncovering strengths and weaknesses of specific competitors and concepts and drilling into the performance down to the level of individual pieces of content. The system makes this manageable by providing automated alerts, recommendations, and a/b testing. The result is many more campaigns than marketers can create manually, taking advantage of opportunities that would otherwise go unnoticed.  Better still, these campaigns reach prospects when they are just starting their online research. Pilot clients showed results including 20% increase in lead volume, 200% improvement in conversion rates, and 50% reduction in cost per lead. The company was founded in 2012 with a public launch in September 2013.  It now has signed more than 30 paying clients. Pricing begins around $10,000 per month for small business clients and is set to meet client goals for lead cost and volume.

Persado offers a sort of multi-variate testing on steroids, using semantic and statistical algorithms to auto-generate and test thousands of alternative marketing messages across Web pages, apps, email, text, social, search and display advertising. I haven’t had a briefing, so I only know what’s on their Web site, but the concept makes perfect sense. The key of course is generating coherent language, although you might argue that the standard set by some human marketers is pretty low. The company has a handful of case studies that show impressive improvements and Bain Capital Ventures was intrigued enough to invest $15 million in 2013. I’m intrigued enough to write this paragraph and send them an email requesting a briefing.

Integrate isn’t quite so sexy as these other systems but it does provide some helpful plumbing. Specifically, it connects Web advertisers with Web publishers for processes including negotiating media buys, storing and distributing advertising materials, checking for click and pixel fraud, and delivering leads the publishers have captured. The lead delivery process is a particular selling point, since Integrate not only consolidates the data into a single feed but also validates postal addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers before the records are imported to the client’s marketing automation or CRM system. Integrate also provides a campaign performance dashboard that shows how each publisher is performing. The company is four years old, has about 2,500 clients, and has 3,500 media partners in its network.

BlueConic just came to my attention the other day and I was excited because it creates a central customer database and delivers coordinated customer treatments across channels: in other words, it’s a Customer Data Platform. Then I found notes in my files from a briefing with them two years ago, which was a bit deflating (not so new) but also gratifying (I'm on top of things).  I even mentioned them briefly in a blog post in late 2012. In any case, they’re still an interesting product that in February received $3 million in new funding and moved their headquarters from The Netherlands to Boston, the better to attack the U.S. market. The company was founded in 2010 and has more than 70 customers. Its basic approach hasn’t changed since I spoke with them: it inserts Javascript tags to listen for interactions on Web pages, mobile sites, apps, or emails; updates a central customer profile with each interaction; and returns customer treatments to display. What takes this beyond standard real-time interaction management is that BlueConic automatically classifies customers by persona, interests, buying phase, lead status, and engagement level, and uses these categories to help select treatments and report on results. That’s a helpful framework which marketers might otherwise need to invent for themselves. The system also applies continuous, automated optimization to select the best treatments, merges profiles across channels, and can provide a simulated view of an individual customer journey to help marketers plan out their treatment rules.

No comments: