Wednesday, December 14, 2016

BlueVenn Bundles Omnichannel Journey Management, Personalization, and Single Customer View

BlueVenn has only been active in the U.S. market only since March 2016, although many U.S. marketers will recall its previous incarnation as SmartFocus.* The company offers what it calls an omnichannel marketing platform that builds a unified customer database, manages marketing campaigns, and generates personalized Web and email messages.

The Venn in BlueVenn

The unified database process, a.k.a. single customer view, has rich functionality to load data from multiple sources and do standardization, validation, enhancement, hygiene, matching, deduplication, governance and auditing. These were standard functions for traditional marketing databases, which needed them to match direct mail names and addresses, but are not always found in modern customer data platforms. BlueVenn also supports current identity linking techniques such as storing associations among cookies, email addresses, form submits, and devices. This sort of identity resolution is a batch process that runs overnight.  The system can also look up information about a specific customer in real time if an ID is provided. This lets BlueVenn support real time interactions in Web and call center channels.

Users can enhance imported data by defining derived elements with functions similar to Excel formulas. These let non-technical users put data into formats they need without the help of technical staff. Derived fields can be used in queries and reports, embedded in other derived fields, and shared among users. To avoid nasty accidents, BlueVenn blocks changes in a field definition if the field is used elsewhere. Data can be read by Tableau and other third-party tools for analysis and reporting.

BlueVenn offers several options for defining customer segments, including cross tabs, geographic map overlays, and flow charts that merge and split different groups.  But BlueVenn's signature selection tool has always the Venn diagram (intersecting circles).  This is made possible by a columnar database engine that is extremely fast at finding records with shared data elements. Clients could also use other databases including SQL Server, Amazon Redshift (also columnar), or MongoDB, although BlueVenn says nearly all its clients use the BlueVenn engine for its combination of high speed and low cost.

Customer journeys - formerly known as campaigns - are set up by connecting icons on a flow chart. The flow can be split based on yes/no critiera, field values, query results, or random groups. Records in each branch can be sent a communication, assigned to seed lists or control groups, deduplicated, tagged, held for a wait period or until they respond, merged with other branches, or exit the flow. The “merge” feature is especially important because it allows journeys to cycle indefinitely rather than ending after a sequence of steps. Merge also simplifies journey design since paths can be reunified after a split. Even today, most campaign flow charts don’t do merges.

BlueVenn Journey Flow

Tagging is also important because it lets marketers flag customers based on a combination of behaviors and data attributes. Tags can be used to control subsequent flow steps. Because tags are attached to the customer record, they can be used to coordinate journeys: one application cited by BlueVenn is to tag customers for future messages in multiple journeys and then periodically compare the tags to decide which message should actually be delivered.

Communications are handled by something called BlueRelevance. This puts a line of code on client Web sites to gather click stream data, manage first party cookies, and deliver personalized messages. The messages can include different forms of dynamic content including recommendations, coupons, and banners. In addition to Web pages, BlueVenn can send batch and triggered emails, text messages, file transfers, and direct messages in Twitter and Facebook. Next year it will add display ad audiences and Facebook Custom Audiences. The vendor is also integrating with the R statistical system for predictive models and scoring. BlueVenn has 23 API integrations with delivery systems such as specific email providers and builds new integrations as clients need them.

All BlueVenn features are delivered as part of a single package. Pricing is based on the number of sources and contacts, starting at $3,000 per month for two sources and 100,000 contacts. There is a separate fee for setting up the unified database, which can range from $50,000 to $300,000 or more depending on complexity. Clients can purchase the configured database management system if they want to run it for themselves. The company also offers a Software-as-a-Service version or hybrid system that is managed by BlueVenn on the client's own computers.  BluyeVenn has about 400 total clients of which about two dozen run the latest version of its system. It sells primarily to mid-size companies, which it defines as $25 million to $1 billion in revenue.


*The original SmartFocus was purchased in 2011 by Emailvision, which changed its own name to SmartFocus in 2013 and then sold the business (technology, clients, etc.) but kept the name for itself. If you’re really into trivia, SmartFocus began life in 1995 as Brann Viper, and BlueVenn is part of Blue Group Inc. which also owns a database marketing services agency called Blue Sheep. The good news is: this won't be on the final.

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