Media CoverageApril 22, 2019

mParticle is rolling out an API to fend off Salesforce and Adobe in the war over marketing tech

Business Insider's Lauren Johnson spoke with mParticle's CEO & Co-founder, Michael Katz, and Head of Product, Craig Kelly, to better understand how our real-time Profile API works and how CDPs, like mParticle, are differentiating themselves from legacy marketing clouds.

As marketers seek help managing growing piles of online data, startups like Segment and mParticle and giants Adobe and Salesforce are building out so-called "consumer data platform" tools.

Consumer data platforms (or CDPs) are software tools that plug into websites, apps and social platforms like Facebook to consolidate all of a brand's customer data and push it to marketing firms that target ads, send email marketing and manage push notifications.

Now, mParticle, which has raised $76 million and counts brands like Postmates, Burger King and Airbnb as clients, is rolling out an API that it says will let marketers pull in that data in real-time to speed up the campaign-building process.

The idea is to help marketers create customer experiences beyond advertising or marketing. Here's how it works: A brand with a database of logged-in users (think a publisher or a delivery app) pings mParticle when a user comes to the brand's website, and the firm's technology pulls in all of the data available on that person — like the time of day that they're most likely to open emails, their order history from a fast-food restaurant or their preference to check-out late from a travel company's app — to give the visitor a customized experience.

A telecom company could customize the user experience on its site to someone if the company knows the person is using the telecom's website while on the phone with the telecom's customer service rep, for example. The tech could also plug into a brand's ad server to send out more targeted campaigns.

Annoying retargeted ads is one challenge mParticle is trying to address. This happens because the data isn't up to date in the ad server, said Craig Kelly, head of product at mParticle. 

"We have customers who want to build their entire website from scratch every time someone visits the page," he said.

And with looming regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Law, marketers are increasingly making sure that their data is compliant and centralized.

"You can't think in terms of channels and tactics anymore," said Michael Katz, mParticle's cofounder and CEO. "You have to be able to address data collection and syndication in a neutral, agnostic way."

mParticle is also rolling out an accelerator program that makes its tools available to startups for free up for a couple years. Katz said the goal is to level the playing field between small startups or their brand clients by providing them the same tools.

"Whether you're a small or large brand, you still by and large have the same needs, so we want to democratize our approach," he said.

Startups want to push back against the marketing clouds

mParticle and Segment position themselves as alternatives to marketing clouds.

In recent years, as marketers shift money into mar-tech, Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle are spending millions to buy technology that stores and manages marketers' data.

Some marketers like direct-to-consumer brands Harry's and Brandless have pushed back on the marketing clouds' "one-stop shop" pitch and are piecing together their own tech stacks, which is similar to how they work with agencies. Katz said marketing clouds have "archaic" technology that makes it difficult to stream in data in real-time.

"A lot of them are based on a world that existed in the mid and late 2000's, and they've struggled to update that," he said. "The market has responded, and nobody wants to standardize to a single vendor."

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