ZineOne is raising money to help e-commerce companies predict customer behavior

In-session marketing, a form of inbound marketing that attempts to analyze and influence the purchasing decisions of web and app users, is often difficult to implement. With so much competition for consumer attention these days, it’s rare for a brand to make a lasting first impression. According to Microsoft Research, people only spend about 10 seconds on a company’s home page if the page doesn’t immediately connect with a marketing message.

Debjani Deb, Manish Malhotra and Arnab Mukherjee, co-founders of in-session marketing platform ZineOne, faced obstacles around customer tracking firsthand in their previous jobs. Deb previously co-founded EmPower, a company that provided social media research and media monitoring tools, while Malhotra started her own company, Social Lair, to develop social media capabilities for large companies. As for Mukherjee, he left Oracle to start Udichi, a computing platform for “big data” analytics.

In the early days of ZineOne, Deb, Malhotra and Mukherjee gathered at the Milpitas Library in Santa Clara and in local coffee shops to speculate on the direction of network marketing technology. They came to the conclusion that capturing user decisions in real time was key to increasing conversions, thus launching ZineOne’s first series of products.

After attracting clients such as Men’s Wearhouse, Wynn Resorts, Advance Auto Parts and Kohl’s, ZineOne has raised $27.4 million in Series C funding, the company announced today. SignalFire led the round, with Norwest and others participating, bringing ZineOne’s total value to $42 million.

“We believe in-session marketing is a critical and perhaps the most important component of modern marketing for brands in a privacy-prioritized world,” Deb told TechCrunch in an email interview. “What session marketing ultimately achieves is allowing brands to capture the optimal amount of conversion on their website, resulting in more efficient pre-purchase monetization and less reliance on remarketing strategies.”

Image authors: ZineOne

At a high level, ZineOne – which caters specifically to e-commerce brands – uses AI to evaluate behavior and personalize individual user experiences on the website and app. By observing a visitor’s first clicks or taps, the platform can seemingly personalize the messages, discount offers and product recommendations it sees in real time.

It’s worth noting that, at least according to some surveys, a large portion of consumers disagree any a way to track behavior for marketing. Part of the pushback may stem from concerns about bias in AI systems, which can affect the experiences of certain customer segments. But Deb argues that ZineOne has safeguards in place to ease those fears.

For example, ZineOne uses anonymized session data to perform its analysis, Deb says — primarily a “granular set of behavioral events” for each visitor, including product detail views, cart updates and checkouts. Because the platform’s segmentation is derived from short-term behaviors, it doesn’t need to store longitudinal identity or profile data, she says.

“ZineOne’s in-session marketing platform is focused on these three main pillars: understanding the in-session behavior of anonymous visitors (not just known customers), predicting outcomes, and taking the optimal set of actions during the session,” said Deb. “ZineOne’s pre-purchase prediction model tells [brands] in 5 clicks which anonymous visitors are most likely to make a purchase, who is on the fence and who is unlikely to buy in this session. They can then trigger experiences in line with the consumer’s propensity to buy today, now, in this moment.”

ZineOne isn’t the only platform applying data analytics to drive e-commerce personalization. DynamicYield, which was acquired by McDonald’s in 2019 before being sold to Mastercard, uses AI to personalize content on websites, make product recommendations and even dynamically change the look of web streams. There’s also Metrical, which knows who visits the site, who is likely to decline or abandon their cart, and “hyper-targets” those potential customers to convince them to keep shopping.

But Deb argues that where ZineOne differs is the breadth of its AI system, which can also predict friction levels during the buying process and price sensitivity at certain points in the session. The current product roadmap is focused on building new predictive models and creating new data visualizations, she said, as well as launching a self-service dashboard.

ZineOne also plans to expand its workforce, growing by 70% by the end of the year.

“ZineOne offers end-users a better browsing and personalized shopping experience without compromising their privacy through cookie tracking and shadow profiling… are on the rise for marketers,” said Deb. “The retail industry saw tremendous growth in e-commerce during the height of the pandemic and now faces different challenges as the economy slows and inflation rises. ZineOne solves a blind spot for these big brands, addressing the needs of the anonymous consumer and instantly recognizing what is happening while the consumer is actively engaged with the brand.”

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