Emarsys is a B2C marketing automation platform that focuses primarily on retail, ecommerce, and travel. Founded in 2000, they now have more than 2500 customers across 70 countries. Customers include ebay, Canon, Tupperware, and Best Buy.
They compete with companies such as Zaius, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Oracle Marketing cloud, SharpSpring, or Cheetah Digital. (Companies such as HubSpot and Marketo, on the other hand, would be more focused on B2B.
In a crowded market, they stand out — in 2018, they had 105% growth in the US alone.
We sat down with Sean Brady, President of Emarsys America, to learn more about their platform and what makes it different than its competitors.
Brady has been President of the Americas at Emarsys since April 2015. Prior to Emarsys, he spent six years at ExactTarget, which was acquired by Salesforce for $2.5 billion in 2013.
Note: This interview has been slightly edited for length and readability. You can also jump to the TL;DR section at the bottom with top tips / quotes from the interview.
ClickZ: First and foremost, you’re a B2C marketing automation platform — do you do B2B at all as well?
Sean Brady: We have B2B. If you think about the difference between the two, B2B takes someone and says that a person is a lead and they’re going to go through a buying cycle that’s pretty consistent. B2B scores leads based on things like title and company size — you look at your algorithms differently. Our platform’s flexible enough that we do allow B2B companies to use it that way.
But on the B2C side, consumers don’t always follow a consistent pattern. They can be all over the place. They can engage with you across multiple different channels or devices, and you have to have a more flexible kind of platform that can look at and capture more data than what you can on B2B.
With B2C, you’re capturing not just business data, but sentiment and behavior. You’re capturing and predicting future behaviors based on all different types of engagement from the consumer. It’s a compilation of multiple touch points that you’re trying to consume.
And I think this is why you see Marketo having such a hard time going to B2C — because they didn’t design it to capture that compilation of engagement from different points. So that’s really what we focus on best.
We think of the back end as a very solid customer data platform that’s housing all this data — whether it’s offline stuff coming from point of sale, inventory, etc., as well as online.
We look at everything that can be looked at from a digital engagement footprint. And we put all those together to create a very well-rounded, 360 kind of view of every customer.
You have to be able to capture billions of different data points in a platform in order to be really a true B2C type of platform.
CZ: Would you say something similar about Hubspot?
SB: Yes, and Hubspot I think has done a nice job of just saying they’re B2B. I haven’t seen them actually do any marketing or anything to try to portray themselves as B2C, like Marketo did about two years ago. I think if you look at Hubspot, if you look at Pardot, those really say, “We’re staying in the B2B lane.”
Read next: HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot account for 50% of marketing automation sales: A comparison of each.
When you look at B2C, you’re seeing Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Oracle Marketing Cloud, IBM Marketing Cloud, and even Listrak or Cheetah Digital, who would say that they’re really more B2C-focused.
CZ: What are the differences between you and Cheetah Digital?
SB: The main difference is that our platform is designed to really be easy to use from a marketer perspective.
It’s organized based around objectives that marketers might have.
So take revenue as a particular objective. Underneath that, we built a platform that allows you to actually see different strategies that align to how you grow your revenue.
Another objective could be to increase average order value. Underneath that objective are tactics, which is what I would consider to be the campaigns necessary in order to drive average order value higher so that you can increase your overall revenue.
So look at it as a funnel, with objectives being at the top, strategies falling underneath, and tactics at the bottom. All tactics should help you achieve that top-level objective.
We built the Emarsys platform for retailers, ecommerce, and travel organizations to be able to do that — to work oriented around objectives — without having to do a bunch of custom configuration to the system.
Companies like Cheetah Digital, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and Listrak cater to multiple industries. They offer really more of what we consider an open box or black box system that you can start configuring based on your industry.
But because we’re really honed in on those three primary markets, we were able to build all of that capability natively into the platform.
People can use it at the touch of a button and really improve their time to market. Time to market is a pressure point for marketers today — especially in ecommerce or retail.
We’ve taken what takes sometimes weeks and months down to days and even hours.
CZ: You’ve had a new customer start in hours?
SB: Let me give you an example. Say you have a birthday campaign, which is somewhat easy to do. You need a date, audience segments, and creative.
What we’ve done is allow you to just hit the create button in the tactic labeled “Birthday.” The segment pulls the data that’s in there, goes into the content management system in the background, and pulls your template in, so you no longer have to go in and create the email or anything.
It automatically populates, so that in hours, you can actually create it and get it up and running. And that’s a simple one. That’s a simple type of tactic.
CZ: You mentioned the creative. Tell me about your announcement last month of a new partnership with Persado?
SB: Yes, so Persado’s specialty is to use algorithms to look at different linguistic sentiments and adjust accordingly. It adjusts your content’s words based on what seems to be highest-performing.
So when we look at personalization, Emarsys is really good at finding very targeted segments, creating personalized content, and then optimizing that content linguistically. The combination really creates a very refined and personalized experience.
We released it on Feb 27, 2019 with a joint customer called Happy Socks.
I think the increase in click-through rate was something like 90%, which is crazy. People think it’s a false number.
But that’s what’s so important around understanding all the aspects of a personalized experience. It’s not just the right time, which we focus on, nor just the right content. It’s also the right language.
CZ: You mentioned Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Oracle, and IBM. Who else would you consider to be your main competitors in the B2C space?
SB: I mean, they keep popping up everywhere. This is what’s confusing about our space.
Today, you can actually create an ESP by simply using a platform like SparkPost or SendGrid in the back end — without having your own sending environment — and still call yourself an ESP.
There are companies out there doing that left and right. I struggle even giving them attention. They confuse their customers — or customers think they’re getting something they’re not.
When you look at what we do from a data perspective — the CDP — then you see our personalization as an engine that goes across all channels.
Most of our competitors will put “personalization” in one channel, i.e. in an email. But putting that same personalized content in other channels would require a lot of manual work.
At Emarsys, on the other hand, we actually built personalization into our platform so that all channels can leverage it.
So if I build an email with a certain message, I can also use that same personal message in an ad on social, in a push notification, in an SMS message, etc. I can use it across any of the channels we work with.
If you look at our competitors, I don’t know anyone else who does it that way. Most of them, including where I used to work at ExactTarget, do personalization just inside the channel.
CZ: What data points do you consider in personalization?
SB: It could be anything from your purchase pattern (whether offline or online) to your browsing experience — which we get permission for, in Europe for example — and how you’ve engaged.
It could be your device preference, where you typically engage with brands. It could be how you typically land on a business. Do you click on ads? Do you log in directly to a website? How do you get there?
For instance, today one of our customers sent me a message because I was browsing Champion sweatshirts on their site for my son who’s in college. I didn’t buy anything, so they sent me an email saying, “Hey, are you still interested in Champion clothing?” That tactic of “Browser Abandonment” helped remind me of what I was doing.
The other thing we think about for personalization is when we send your message. We have algorithms on the back-end that optimize when emails should be sent to customers. So I might open my email at 9:00 every morning, but that email may have been sent to me at 4:00 in the morning. Because of how it lands in my inbox, I always seem to open it. Our system will allow our customers to keep sending that email at 4:00, knowing that I keep opening it at 9:00.
CZ: You mentioned your primary industries are ecommerce, retail, and travel, correct?
SB: Those are the three that we have built native vertical solutions inside the platform for.
We still do business with other verticals, like publishing, gaming, even horse racing. We go across verticals. But inside our platform, each retailers, ecommerce, and travel are natively built with tactics, objectives, and strategies inside.
CZ: And then for industries outside those three, would it just require a little more customization from the customer’s end?
SB: I’d call it configuring. Depending on the purchase pattern of those other industries, you can configure some of the technology to align to those.
CZ: What percent more or less of your customer base are those industries?
SB: If you look at travel, ecommerce, and retail, that’s about 70-75% of our customers globally.
CZ: You’re headquartered in Vienna?
SB: Right, our headquarters are in Vienna. And then we have three regional hubs: Indianapolis for the Americas, London for our EMEA market, and then Hong Kong for our Asian Pacific market.
CZ: What led to the choice for Indianapolis?
SB: I brought Emarsys to the Americas, so when we were looking at offices, we narrowed it down to San Francisco, Austin, and Indianapolis. The cost of doing business in San Francisco is high and very difficult to warrant when you’re trying to migrate to a market. It’s just more expensive than necessary. And they’re not nearly as aggressive on incentives for you to bring your business there because they have so many startups.
Austin is more aggressive on the startup side and the incentives. But when you look at the employee base, the turnover rate in the technology industry is really high. I think people are always looking for the next big deal.
When you look at Indianapolis, the city and state were very aggressive on how they approached us wanting to bring more technology here. And when you look at the employment space, there’s a higher tenure rate on average than those other two markets. People are loyal and they’re not jumping from startup to startup. It was kind of that Midwest culture in general that we see and benefit from.
Fifteen percent of our employees were the first I hired in the US. And most of our employees have been here for more than a year, if not two years. I would say that 50% are two years or more.
CZ: That’s great. How long have you been in the US?
SB: We’re three years in, so we’re on our fourth year right now.
CZ: But Emarsys as a whole has been around since when?
SB: Since 2000. So this will be our 19th year.
CZ: How was the process of introducing Emarsys to the US market? What kind of feedback did you get from customers or the market? Did you find that there’s a lot less competition back then than there is now?
SB: It’s been a crowded market all along, which I knew from my background.
We found was our specialty around retail and ecommerce. Before Emarsys, you did not meet natively-built platforms like what we had.
We have one particular part of our analytics which we call Smart Insight, which really helps customers understand where their customers are in their life cycle. For Emarsys, this feature is natively built in. But for our competitors, they’d have to buy point solutions to bolt onto their software in order to seed it.
As we started growing in the US market, that was one of our biggest differentiators — and it still is today.
If you look at our growth in the US, last year alone was 105%.
Emarsys’ differentiators in a very crowded and confusing market really have mattered to retailers, ecommerce companies, and travel organizations.
And like I said, we also do gaming in the US. And one of the largest horse racing tracks in the US is a customer. Those came about because of our ability to operate as a customer data platform — one client called it a marketing data platform — which was different than any other platform he’d seen.
CZ: What drew you personally to Emarsys versus other companies that were around at the time when you were leaving ExactTarget?
SB: First off, our founder, who is our current Chief Innovation Officer, is probably one of the brightest people I’d ever met.
He really understood marketers and customers and was building a platform that my previous place of employment had talked about doing and never did. And he’d been doing it right in the platform. It was everything that I had been talking about in the space.
The second thing is, with so many acquisitions happening in this space, I felt that the service level for marketers had started falling off. My job in my previous life at ExactTarget was running customer success, so all the customers across the Americas were in my portfolio. In our transition after the acquisition by Salesforce, I saw that the same engagement wasn’t going to happen. It was such a decentralized organization that bought us, and I really felt like we had different approaches.
Our approach had been to help marketers think strategically about what they’re trying to accomplish and then show them ways that are as user friendly as possible to accomplish them in a platform. At Emarsys, I could do that again.
Our founder brought me here because of his vision. And with the ability to bridge a gap in the market back from a service level, I really felt like we could make an impact.
CZ: Closing thoughts on what makes Emarsys different than other B2C marketing automation platforms?
SB: When you actually think about data having specific solutions for retailers, ecommerce, and travel organizations, and the analytics behind it — allowing people to see where customers are in the life cycle and the value they have to a business — nobody’s platform does that better than Emarsys. They would have to bolt everything together to try to create it.
TL;DR — Summary of key points and quotes
- Emarsys does B2C marketing automation first and foremost, but can also adapt to B2B.
- Their key industries are ecommerce, retail, and travel, which together represent 70-75% of customers.
- Their platform is built around objectives first. Think of the process as objectives → strategies → tactics. Too many other platforms make marketers start with tactics, which makes meeting objectives more confusing and time-consuming.
- A personalized experience = the right time, the right content, and the right language. They announced a partnership about a month ago with Persado to optimize language.
- “Most of our competitors will put “personalization” in one channel, i.e. in an email. But putting that same personalized content in other channels would require a lot of manual work. At Emarsys, on the other hand, we actually built personalization into our platform so that all channels can leverage it. If you look at our competitors, I don’t know anyone else who does it that way.”
- HQ is in Vienna. Regional hubs in Indianapolis for the Americas, London for EMEA, and Hong Kong for APAC.
- Their US growth was 105% last year alone. In an extremely crowded market, they differentiate themselves.