Nov
14
2019
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Adobe announces GA of customer data platform

The customer data platform (CDP) is the newest tool in the customer experience arsenal as big companies try to help customers deal with data coming from multiple channels. Today, Adobe announced the general availability of its CDP.

The CDP is like a central data warehouse for all the information you have on a single customer. This crosses channels like web, email, text, chat and brick and mortar in-person visits, as well as systems like CRM, e-commerce and point of sale. The idea is to pull all of this data together into a single record to help companies have a deep understanding of the customer at an extremely detailed level. They then hope to leverage that information to deliver highly customized cross-channel experiences.

The idea is to take all of this information and give marketers the tools they need to take advantage of it. “We want to make sure we create an offering that marketers can leverage and makes use of all of that goodness that’s living within Adobe Experience platform,” Nina Caruso, product marketing manager for Adobe Audience Manager, explained.

She said that would involve packaging and presenting the data in such a way to make it easier for marketers to consume, such as dashboards to deliver the data they want to see, while taking advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning under the hood to help them find the data to populate the dashboards without having to do the heavy lifting.

Beyond that, having access to real-time streaming data in one place under the umbrella of the Adobe Experience Platform should enable marketers to create much more precise market segments. “Part of real-time CDP will be building productized primo maintained integrations for marketers to be able to leverage, so that they can take segmentations and audiences that they’ve built into campaigns and use those across different channels to provide a consistent customer experience across that journey life cycle,” Caruso said.

As you can imagine, bringing all of this information together, while providing a platform for customization for the customer, raises all kinds of security and privacy red flags at the same time. This is especially true in light of GDPR and the upcoming California privacy law. Companies need to be able to enforce data usage rules across the platform.

To that end, the company also announced the availability of Adobe Experience Platform Data Governance, which helps companies define a set of rules around the data usage. This involves “frameworks that help [customers] enforce data usage policies and facilitate the proper use of their data to comply with regulations, obligations and restrictions associated with various data sets,” according to the company.

“We want to make sure that we offer our customers the controls in place to make sure that they have the ability to appropriately govern their data, especially within the evolving landscape that we’re all living in when it comes to privacy and different policies,” Caruso said.

These tools are now available to Adobe customers.

Nov
13
2019
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Freshworks raises $150M Series H on $3.5B valuation

Freshworks, a company that makes a variety of business software tools, from CRM to help-desk software, announced a $150 million Series H investment today from Sequoia Capital, CapitalG (formerly Google Capital) and Accel on a hefty $3.5 billion valuation. The late-stage startup has raised almost $400 million, according to Crunchbase data.

The company has been building an enterprise SaaS platform to give customers a set of integrated business tools, but CEO and co-founder Girish Mathrubootham says they will be investing part of this money in R&D to keep building out the platform.

To that end, the company also announced today a new unified data platform called the “Customer-for-Life Cloud” that runs across all of its tools. “We are actually investing in really bringing all of this together to create the “Customer-for-Life Cloud,” which is how you take marketing, sales, support and customer success — all of the aspects of a customer across the entire life cycle journey and bring them to a common data model where a business that is using Freshworks can see the entire life cycle of the customer,” Mathrubootham explained.

While Mathrubootham was not ready to commit to an IPO, he said they are in the process of hiring a CFO and are looking ahead to one day becoming a public company. “We don’t have a definite timeline. We want to go public at the right time. We are making sure that as a company that we are ready with the right processes and teams and predictability in the business,” he said.

In addition, he says he will continue to look for good acquisition targets, and having this money in the bank will help the company fill in gaps in the product set should the right opportunity arise. “We don’t generally acquire revenue, but we are looking for good technology teams both in terms of talent, as well as technology that would help give us a jumpstart in terms of go-to-market.” It hasn’t been afraid to target small companies in the past, having acquired 12 already.

Freshworks, which launched in 2010, has almost 2,500 employees, a number that’s sure to go up with this new investment. It has 250,00 customers worldwide, including almost 40,000 paying customers. These including Bridgestone Tires, Honda, Hugo Boss, Toshiba and Cisco.

Nov
11
2019
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Salesforce Ventures invested $300M in Automattic while Salesforce was building a CMS

In September, Salesforce Ventures, the venture of arm of Salesforce, announced a hefty $300 million investment in Automattic, the company behind WordPress, the ubiquitous content management system (CMS). At the same time, the company was putting the finishing touches on Salesforce CMS, an in-house project it released last week.

The question is, why did it choose to do both?

One reason could be that WordPress isn’t just well-liked; it’s also the world’s most popular content management system, running 34 percent of the world’s 10 billion websites — including this one — according to the company. With Automattic valued at $3 billion, that gives Salesforce Ventures a 10 percent stake.

Given the substantial investment, you wouldn’t have been irrational to at least consider the idea that Salesforce may have had its eye on this company as an acquisition target. In fact, at the time of the funding, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg told TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet that there could be some partnerships and integrations with Salesforce in the future.

Now we have a Salesforce CMS, and a potential partnership with one of the world’s largest web content management (WCM) tools, and it’s possible that the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

Nov
07
2019
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Salesforce announces new content management system

Salesforce has its fingers in a lot of parts of the customer experience, so why not content management? Today, the company announced a brand new tool called Salesforce Content Management System, which it says is designed from the ground up to deliver a quality customer experience across multiple channels.

The idea is to provide a way for customers to create, manage and deliver more meaningful content across multiple channels from within the Salesforce family of products. The company claims it doesn’t require any kind of deep technical knowledge to do it, meaning marketers and product people should be able to create and deliver content without the help of IT, once the system is properly set up.

Anna Rosenman, Salesforce’s VP of product marketing for Community Cloud, Commerce Cloud and Salesforce CMS, says the company created the new CMS to answer a customer demand. “Our customers have been asking for a dedicated CMS. The systems that they’ve been relying on so far tend to be legacy tools that are hard to use and built for a single-channel or site,” she said.

Photo: Salesforce

While users can create more personalized content based on what they know about the customer based on Salesforce data, Rosenman says the key differentiator here is the ability to connect to third-party systems. “A hybrid CMS provides a native experience channel or touchpoint, but also gives you the flexibility to present content to any touchpoint built on a third-party system,” she explained.

Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, who has followed the Web CMS space for two decades, says this isn’t the first time that Salesforce has tried content management. The previous iteration was called Salesforce Sites. “They made big promises around that platform, got some major customers on board and then dropped it,” Byrne said.

He says it’s a major challenge to build a sophisticated multi-channel CMS. “It’s easy to build a simple CMS. It’s much harder to build an extensible, enterprise platform,” he said. He added, “There’s a lot of work they still need to do to feed other platforms around things like connectors, simulation, tracking, very advanced asset management (e.g., compound assets), object-oriented storage, etc.”

But Rosenman says the system’s built-in flexibility is designed to provide that, and even be used in conjunction with existing legacy tools if need be.

What’s interesting here is that Salesforce decided to build this tool, rather than buying a company and integrating it into the Salesforce family, an approach it has not been afraid to take in the past. In fact, the company pursues an aggressive acquisition strategy. This year alone it spent more than $15 billion to buy Tableau and another $1.35 billion to buy ClickSoftware.

In this case, in the tension between building and buying, it decided to build instead. Time will tell if that was a good decision or not.

Sep
10
2019
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Latest Adobe tool helps marketers work directly with customer journey data

Adobe has a lot going on with Analytics and the Customer Experience Platform, a place to gather data to understand customers better. Today, it announced a new analytics tool that enables employees to work directly with customer journey data to help deliver a better customer experience.

The customer journey involves a lot of different systems, from a company data lake to CRM to point of sale. This tool pulls all of that data together from across multiple systems and various channels and brings it into the data analysis workspace, announced in July.

Nate Smith, group manager for product marketing for Adobe Analytics, says the idea is to give access to this data in a standard way across the organization, whether it’s a data scientist, an analyst with SQL skills or a marketing pro simply looking for insight.

“When you think about organizations that are trying to do omni-channel analysis or trying to get that next channel of data in, they now have the platform to do that, where the data can come in and we standardize it on an academic model,” he said. They then layer this ability to continuously query the data in a visual way to get additional insight they might not have seen.

Adobe screenshot 1

Screenshot: Adobe

Adobe is trying to be as flexible as possible in every step of the process, and openness was a guiding principle here, Smith said. That means that data can come from any source, and users can visualize it using Adobe tools or an external tool like Tableau or Looker. What’s more, they can get data in or out as needed, or even use your their own models, Smith said.

“We recognize that as much as we’d love to have everyone go all in on the Adobe stack, we understand that there is existing significant investment in other tech and that integration and interoperability really needs to happen, as well,” he said.

Ultimately this is about giving marketers access to a full picture of the customer data to deliver the best experience possible based on what you know about them. “Being able to have insight and engagement points to help with the moments that matter and provide great experience is really what we’re aiming to do with this,” he said.

This product will be generally available next month.

Aug
29
2019
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Mews grabs $33M Series B to modernize hotel administration

If you think about the traditional hotel business, there hasn’t been a ton of innovation. You mostly still stand in a line to check in, and sometimes even to check out. You let the staff know about your desire for privacy with a sign on the door. Mews believes it’s time to rethink how hotels work in a more modern digital context, especially on the administrative side, and today it announced a $33 million Series B led by Battery Ventures.

When Mews founder Richard Valtr started his own hotel in Prague in 2012, he wanted to change how hotels have operated traditionally. “I really wanted to change the way that hotel systems are built to make sure that it’s more about the experience that the guest is actually having, rather than facilitating the kind of processes that hotels have built over the last hundred years,” Valtr told TechCrunch.

He said most of the innovation in this space has been in the B2C area, using Airbnb as a prime example. He wants to bring that kind of change to the way hotels operate. “That’s essentially what Mews is trying to do. [We want to shift the focus to] the fundamental things about why we love to travel and why people actually love to stay in hotels, experience hotels, and be cared for by professional staff. We are trying to do that in a way that that actually delivers a really meaningful experience and personalized experience to that one particular customer,” he explained.

For starters, Mews is a cloud-based system that automates a lot of the manual tasks, like room assignments that hotel staff at many hotels often still have to handle as part of their jobs. Valtr believes by freeing the staff from these kinds of tedious activities, it enables them to concentrate more on the guests.

It also offers ways for guests and hotels to customize their stays to get the best experience possible. Valtr says this approach brings a new level of flexibility that allows hotels to create new revenue opportunities, while letting guests choose the kind of stay they want.

From a guest perspective, they could by-pass the check-in process altogether, sharing all of their registration details ahead of time and getting a pass code sent to their phone to get into the room. The system integrates with third-party hotel booking sites like Booking.com and Expedia, as well as other services, through its open hospitality API, which offers lots of opportunities for properties to partner with local businesses.

The company is currently operating at 1,000 properties across 47 countries, but it lacks a presence in the U.S. and wants to use this round to open an office in NYC and expand into this market. “We really want to attack the U.S. market because that’s essentially where most of the decision makers for all of the major chains are. And we’re not going to change the industry if we don’t actually change the thinking of the biggest brands,” Valtr said.

Today, the company has 270 employees spread across 10 offices around the world. Headquarters are in Prague and London, but the company is in the process of opening that NYC office, and the number of employees will expand when that happens.

Aug
19
2019
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Simon Data hauls in $30M Series C to continue building customer data platform

As businesses use an increasing variety of marketing software solutions, the goal around collecting all of that data is to improve customer experience. Simon Data announced a $30 million Series C round today to help.

The round was led by Polaris Partners . Previous investors .406 Ventures and F-Prime Capital also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $59 million, according to the company.

Jason Davis, co-founder and CEO, says his company is trying to pull together a lot of complex data from a variety of sources, while driving actions to improve customer experience. “It’s about taking the data, and then building complex triggers that target the right customer at the right time,” Davis told TechCrunch. He added, “This can be in the context of any sort of customer transaction, or any sort of interaction with the business.”

Companies tend to use a variety of marketing tools, and Simon Data takes on the job of understanding the data and activities going on in each one. Then based on certain actions — such as, say, an abandoned shopping cart — it delivers a consistent message to the customer, regardless of the source of the data that triggered the action.

They see this ability to pull together data as a customer data platform (CDP). In fact, part of its job is to aggregate data and use it as the basis of other activities. In this case, it involves activating actions you define based on what you know about the customer at any given moment in the process.

As the company collects this data, it also sees an opportunity to use machine learning to create more automated and complex types of interactions. “There are a tremendous number of super complex problems we have to solve. Those include core platform or infrastructure, and we also have a tremendous opportunity in front of us on the predictive and data science side as well,” Davis said. He said that is one of the areas where they will put today’s money to work.

The company, which launched in 2014, is based in NYC. The company currently has 87 employees, and that number is expected to grow with today’s announcement. Customers include Equinox, Venmo and WeWork. The company’s most recent funding was a $20 million round in July 2018.

Aug
05
2019
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Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt is coming to TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise to discuss customer experience management

There are few topics as hot right now in the enterprise as customer experience management, that ability to collect detailed data about your customers, then deliver customized experiences based on what you have learned about them. To help understand the challenges companies face building this kind of experience, we are bringing Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt to TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise on September 5 in San Francisco (p.s. early-bird sales end this Friday, August 9).

At the root of customer experience management is data — tons and tons of data. It may come from the customer journey through a website or app, basic information you know about the customer or the customer’s transaction history. It’s hundreds of signals and collecting that data in order to build the experience where Reinhardt’s company comes in.

Segment wants to provide the infrastructure to collect and understand all of that data. Once you have that in place, you can build data models and then develop applications that make use of the data to drive a better experience.

Reinhardt, and a panel that includes Qualtrics’ Julie Larson-Green and Adobe’s Amit Ahuja, will discuss with TechCrunch editors the difficulties companies face collecting all of that data to build a picture of the customer, then using it to deliver more meaningful experiences for them. See the full agenda here.

Segment was born in the proverbial dorm room at MIT when Reinhardt and his co-founders were students there. They have raised more than $280 million since inception. Customers include Atlassian, Bonobos, Instacart, Levis and Intuit .

Early-bird tickets to see Peter and our lineup of enterprise influencers at TC Sessions: Enterprise are on sale for just $249 when you book here; but hurry, prices go up by $100 after this Friday!

Are you an early-stage startup in the enterprise-tech space? Book a demo table for $2,000 and get in front of TechCrunch editors and future customers/investors. Each demo table comes with four tickets to enjoy the show.

Jul
30
2019
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Catalyst raises $15M from Accel to transform data-driven customer success

Managing your customers has changed a lot in the past decade. Out are the steak dinners and ballgame tickets to get a sense of a contract’s chance at renewal, and in are churn analysis and a whole bunch of data science to learn whether a customer and their users like or love your product. That customer experience revolution has been critical to the success of SaaS products, but it can remain wickedly hard to centralize all the data needed to drive top performance in a customer success organization.

That’s where Catalyst comes in. The company, founded in New York City in 2017 and launched April last year, wants to centralize all of your disparate data sources on your customers into one easy-to-digest tool to learn how to approach each of them individually to optimize for the best experience.

The company’s early success has attracted more top investors. It announced today that it has raised a $15 million Series A led by Vas Natarajan of Accel, who previously backed enterprise companies like Frame.io, Segment, InVision, and Blameless. The company had previously raised $3 million from NYC enterprise-focused Work-Bench and $2.4 million from True Ventures. Both firms participated in this new round.

Catalyst CEO Edward Chiu told me that Accel was attractive because of the firm’s recent high-profile success in the enterprise space, including IPOs like Slack, PagerDuty, and CrowdStrike.

When we last spoke with Catalyst a year and a half ago, the firm had just raised its first seed round and was just the company’s co-founders — brothers Edward and Kevin Chiu — and a smattering of employees. Now, the company has 19 employees and is targeting 40 employees by the end of the year.

Team Photo

In that time, the product has continued to evolve as it has worked with its customers. One major feature of Catalyst’s product is a “health score” that determines whether a customer is likely to grow or churn in the coming months based on ingested data around usage. CEO Chiu said that “we’ve gotten our health score to be very very accurate” and “we have the ability to take automated action based on that health score.” Today, the company offers “prefect sync” with Salesforce, Mixpanel, Zendesk, among other services, and will continue to make investments in new integrations.

One high priority for the company has been increasing the speed of integration when a new customer signs up for Catalyst. Chiu said that new customers can be onboarded in minutes, and they can use the platform’s formula builder to define the exact nuances of their health score for their specific customers. “We mold to your use case,” he said.

One lesson the company has learned is that as success teams increasingly become critical to the lifeblood of companies, other parts of the organization and senior executives are working together to improve their customer’s experiences. Chiu told me that the startup often starts with onboarding a customer success team, only to later find that C-suite and other team leads have also joined and are also interacting together on the platform.

An interesting dynamic for the company is that it does its own customer success on its customer success platform. “We are our own best customer,” Chiu said. “We login every day to see the health of our customers… our product managers login to Catalyst every day to read product feedback.”

Since the last time we checked in, the company has added a slew of senior execs, including Cliff Kim as head of product, Danny Han as head of engineering, and Jessica Marucci as head of people, with whom the two Chius had worked together at cloud infrastructure startup DigitalOcean.

Moving forward, Chiu expects to invest further in data analysis and engineering. “One of the most unique things about us is that we are collecting so much unique data: usage patterns, [customer] spend fluctuations, [customer] health scores,” Chiu said. “It would be a hugely missed opportunity not to analyze that data and work on churn.”

Jul
29
2019
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Adobe’s latest Customer Experience Platform updates take aim at data scientists

Adobe’s Customer Experience Platform provides a place to process all of the data that will eventually drive customer experience applications in the Adobe Experience Cloud. This involves bringing in vast amounts of transactional and interactional data being created across commerce platforms. This process is complex and involves IT, applications developers and data scientists.

Last fall, the company introduced a couple of tools in beta for the last group. Data scientists need familiar kinds of tools to work with the data as it streams into the platform in order to create meaningful models for the application developers to build upon. Today, it made two of those tools generally available — Query Service and Data Science Workspaces — which should go a long way toward helping data scientists feel comfortable working with data on this platform.

Ronell Hugh, group manager at Adobe Experience Platform, says these tools are about helping data scientists move beyond pure data management and getting into deriving more meaningful insights from it. “Data scientists were just bringing data in and trying to manage and organize it, and now we see that with Experience Platform, they are able to do that in a more seamless way, and can spend more time doing what they really want to do, which is deriving insights from the data to be actionable in the organization,” Hugh told TechCrunch.

Part of that is being able to do queries across the data sets they have brought into the platform. The newly released Query Service will enable data scientists and analysts to write queries to understand the data better and get specific answers based on the data faster.

“With Query Service in Adobe Experience Platform, analysts and data scientists can now poll all of their data sets stored in Experience Platform to answer specific cross-channel and cross-platform questions, faster than ever before. This includes behavioral data, as well as point-of-sale (POS), customer relationship management (CRM) and more,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new tool.

In addition, the company made the Data Science Workspace generally available. As the name implies, it provides a place for data scientists to work with the data and build models derived from it. The idea behind this tool is to use artificial intelligence to help automate some of the more mundane aspects of the data science job.

“Data scientists can take advantage of this new AI that fuels deeper data discovery by using Adobe Sensei pre-built models, bringing their existing models or creating custom models from scratch in Experience Platform,” the company wrote in the announcement blog post.

Today, it was the data scientists’ turn, but the platform is designed to help IT manage underlying infrastructure, whether in the cloud or on premises, and for application developers to take advantage of the data models and build customer experience applications on top of that. It’s a complex, yet symbiotic relationship, and Adobe is attempting to pull all of it together in a single platform.

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