Campaign Monitor is investing heavily in AI and predictive as it pivots towards becoming a CRM platform

The popular email marketing software maker Campaign Monitor is investing heavily in AI and predictive capabilities following a major acquisition, as it looks to become more of a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for business to consumer (B2C) marketers.

This comes at an exciting time for the company. It has recently opened a London office, closed the acquisition of Tagga – a Canadian startup which specialises in tracking customer data across the web to build up accurate profiles and demographic segments – and is batting away those inevitable IPO rumours that circle any company with this sort of momentum.

In its current incarnation Campaign Monitor is a popular tool for marketers. Customers tend to be small- to medium-sized direct-to-consumer businesses and include the likes of Airbnb, and Topshop in the UK.

Over coffee in London's King's Cross, the CEO and former Salesforce wunderkind Alex Bard told Computerworld UK about his vision for the company by 2020.

"When I think about Campaign Monitor 2020, a marketer sits down at a dashboard and the system says here is a segment we think is really interesting that we have identified," he said. "We believe, based on previous behaviour and data, that could result in $500,000 in sales over the next 10 days, click here to execute the campaign."

"Then we will match that up with the original prediction and tune the algorithms and get smarter. The whole purpose is we want to help small-to-medium businesses grow, so any way that AI and predictive can help them do that we will invest in that."

Tagga acquisition

Many of these new capabilities have been made possible by the recent Tagga acquisition. Bard believes that bringing in Tagga's capabilities and its team can truly supercharge Campaign Monitor this year. He says that the "day after you close is where the real work starts" but that they are already working together with the team and sketching out roadmaps for aligning the two products.

Beta users will start to see some of these new capabilities over the course of the year, and according to Bard, customers will see a packaged release bringing the Tagga capabilities into Campaign Monitor by the end of 2017.

One company that has been using the services of the two former partners side-by-side already is Flight Centre, who Bard says reported a 10 percent uplift in bookings as a result of using Tagga data with Campaign Monitor.

The key to the acquisition is a drive towards tighter segmentation, targeting and personalisation.

"So inside of Campaign Monitor, especially now with Tagga, we can harvest all of that behavioural data from users and create segments," Bard said. "So you look like this person because of your behaviour, here is a recommendation of a segment of these people. That very much is AI and machine learning because it would be very difficult for a human to map those segments."

By giving marketers these hyper-targeted segments, customers can start to create and deliver highly personalised content using Campaign Monitor, and get reporting down to the actual revenue impact, beyond opens and clicks. In essence, the whole platform becomes closer to a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

"When I think of the core offering today, and include Tagga as part of the company, we now have a system of intelligence and a system of engagement which will be seamlessly merged," Bard said. "We view it as the next-gen B2C CRM."

Bard is also looking to expand the channels end users can apply Campaign Monitor to, including various messaging services. He explained: "In Facebook Messenger, if you allow a business to communicate with you they can message you updates on the status of your package, or an offer based on previous behaviour, or customer service.

"So from a marketing perspective through Messenger, instead of sending an email through Campaign Monitor, we might send you a message that says 'come and check out this deal' and it would be that sort of interaction."

AI-driven targeting

In a broader sense Bard wants Campaign Monitor to help "data-driven marketers" to target customers "based on what they do, not what they say."

"If you zoom out and think of marketing it has gone from one to all, to one to some based on demographics and stated interest," he said. "In the future you want to be more one-to-one, hyper-personalised… what we have seen is the more personal, the higher the engagement rates and output you are trying to drive."

These moves shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Bard's background. He sold Assistly – a SaaS startup he cofounded – to Salesforce in 2011 for $80 million and took up leadership roles at the company under CEO Marc Benioff.

Moving Campaign Monitor into becoming more of a CRM solution, as well as a best of breed software tool in its own segment, is a very Salesforce move. As is bringing predictive insights and suggested actions into the platform, as has recently been seen in the Salesforce suite of products with the launch of Salesforce Einstein.

Read next: What is Salesforce's AI powered Einstein product? When can customers try Einstein and how much will it cost?

Lastly, when asked about those IPO rumours Bard said: "We don't think about it and we think about how we continue to build value for customers, which builds value for the business, and I believe we will have a variety of different opportunities, whether it is a float or looks like something else, but we don't target that as a milestone where we are right now."

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon