Emarsys is one of the 3800+ players that occupy Scott Brinker’s Chiefmartech Lumascape. Contrary to many of those players they have been around for a while. Emarsys was founded in 2001 and has grown considerably, yet they are still independent in a world where the big guys like Oracle and IBM are gobbling up the smaller players. What is the story behind Emarsys and how do they intend to stand out? An interview with Ben Glynn, Managing Director for Emarsys in APAC.
I meet Ben at the Emarsys office, located at Boat Quay in Singapore, once the centre of trade in Singaporean history. So I launch the interview by asking Ben to explain Emarsys its own history and how they help modern trade.
“Emarsys is an Austrian company from Vienna and we have been around for over 15 years. Around 2001 when it started we focused email marketing but over time this has expanded into a broader set of marketing tools that address the increasing marketing complexity, specifically with regards to personalisation. In 2007, when we won the Ebay account, we went from a European to a global scope and since 2012 we have had a presence in APAC, with a focus on South East Asia.”
We ask Ben about the reason why Emarsys is still independent. A few other players like ExactTarget, Responsys and Silverpop got acquired. Is there a specific reason for this?
“I know we received a few offers that obviously never came to fruition. I’ll be speculating from our CEO’s perspective on the reason for this, but I know we wanted to create something unique in the market. The interest from others showed we had something unique and we wanted to build on that. We have consistently had a growth plan that over time went from email marketing to personalised marketing and includes mobile, recommendations and in-app communication. Our current focus is on developing solutions for mid-tier sized companies, although recently we have started to target enterprise accounts as well.”
“Secondly, we come from a B2C background. We focus on how consumers make decisions, which is vastly different from B2B relationships. As we all know the B2C landscape is increasingly complex but the consumer is looking for a simpler and consistent experience cross-channel. So we are confronted with enterprises that have bought cloud solutions that are not yet integrated to get deep behavioural insights, and that is exactly the area in which we claim to be a better alternative.”
So what does Ben see as challenges currently in APAC?
“We experience time and again that businesses are siloed and that this comes with separate budgets and complex decision making. We are trying to overcome this by focusing on outcomes rather than the channel. For example, if 90% of your customers buy only once, the objective should be to get them to buy again. Based on the insight we garner from customer data, we bring marketing teams that work separately on different channels together to try achieve the goal. This coordinated multi-channel approach can help to increase order value, grow out high value segments and acquire more customers in a particular demographic. Unfortunately, businesses here are focused on channels rather than customer lifetime value, and that is what we are trying to change. Looking at a customer’s lifetime value brings longer term benefits compared to a focus on channels.”
“From a business strategy perspective we are trying to focus on 3 verticals; retail, travel commerce and subscription type services. These are areas where retention and Customer Lifetime Value management are important topics and we are convinced we have a role to play there.”
What about geographical focus? Which countries in SEA are interesting?
Ben explains: “We are very interested in Indonesia. You might think at first that this is based on the population of 200M+ but we’re interested for a different reason. 40% of the population is under 25 years old and buying online is still nascent at best but it is also growing in double digits. There is a rising middle class but the use of credit cards is negligible. What this means is that when you have a customer between 18 and 30 years old as an online customer with a credit card you really want to hold on to him or her and maximise CLV. The big question is how do you retain these customers? We are convinced that when you look at their historical data and apply predictive analytics you have a much better and higher chance of retaining the customer and developing a relationship, so that is where we are currently focusing.”
How does Emarsys try to stand out in other ways in the market?
“We focus on usability and speed of integration. We drive for an implementation time where companies can start seeing the first results after weeks instead of months. With the typical implementation time for cloud solutions being as long as 6 months to a year for cloud solutions, this is an important consideration for customers that want to see a quick return on their bottom line. We try to achieve this through great usability and ease of implementation, which shortens onboarding time and time to market. We focus also on getting tactics and tools up and running that generate high levels of revenue. We have achieved a 1-day implementation for a certain customer, which is of course extreme and an exception but let’s say that is our goal. Get customers to see the first results as soon as possible. We have to deal often with a range of legacy systems and processes. To cope with that we focused on developing technology to aid implementation, such as onboarding wizards so set up can be done by clients themselves without much support from our side.”
Can you provide us with an example of client that saw the benefits of your solutions?
“Decathlon in Singapore is an example of an e-commerce business that saw good if not downright great results after implementation of our platform. We developed a lifecycle and cart-abandonment strategy, using our automation and product recommendation solution to increase conversions. They achieved 769% ROI within 3 months. These results accelerated the opening of their flagship store in Bedok. Decathlon is now focusing on creating an O2O strategy with cross-channel discounts.”
So what about the rise of the chat and messenger apps?
“Chat apps like LINE and WeChat have opened up new ways of B2C communication and interaction indeed. Yet, I do think that email as an identifier will be important for a while to come. Facebook is still using it and Google just opened their ad network for targeting via email address as well. That said, we are aware of this trends and will follow very closely how this changes the B2C relationship dynamics.”
What is next on the roadmap for Emarsys?
Ben explains this against the recent trend of analytics and specifically predictive analytics.
“We acquired a company called Scarab Research in 2014. Scarab specialises in product recommendations, analytics and machine learning. We immediately integrated their predictive capabilities into our platform and have already seen great results. At Emarsys we now try to focus on what I would call “automating the automation”. By this I mean that marketers often lack the time, insights and/or the resources to focus on the development of the actual content for personalised messaging. I am convinced that only through machine learning and AI will marketers be able to scale personalised treatment for their consumers e.g. unique promotions with incentives specific for each individual. But this can only be done if we don’t put too much strain on the marketer in terms of effort. Let me put it this way; we are focused on scaling personalised responses with the help of machine learning and predictive analytics. We are expanding focus on new verticals such as travel, investing in technology for this. We are always looking at new channels and ways of engaging customers, and consider these in our product roadmap e.g. chat bots on Facebook for example.”
So still no sign of an acquisition?
“What I can say is that we recently received an injection of 33M of investment capital. This will be primarily used for product development, expansion in new markets and talent acquisition. Right now we have 16 offices worldwide, with about 600 staff. We have seen new business growth of over 100% in 2015, so we are doing something right. We will certainly focus on predictive and cross-channel capabilities with a strong focus on mobile. David Galante former Director of Mobile Products at Salesforce is now leading the charge for Emarsys in this area.”
With this fierce show of independence we end the interview. We will keep following Emarsys on its quest to scale the heights of martech.
Editor: Matthieu Vermeulen