Swirl, the in-store customer engagement platform, announced an $8 million round of funding led by new strategic partner Hearst Corp.’s Hearst Ventures.
Also joining the Series B round were previous investors SoftBank Capital and Longworth Venture Partners. The latest investment adds to Swirl's $6M Series A round last year, and brings the company's total amount of funding to $14 million. General Catalyst, who participated in the A round, did not take place in the most recent round of funding.
The company has been piloting its in-store micro-location sensors/beacons that create real time mobile engagement based on a customers location in a retail store since the late spring/summer. (I covered the pilot program in June.) The beacons connect with Swirl's engagement platform to customize the targeting of customers with deals and content, as well as for analyzing customers' habits.
The new round of funding will help the company scale its network of partners and retailers. Originally tested in boutique-type shops like Timberland, Alex and Ani, and Kenneth Cole, among others, the company will be expanding the Swirl in-store platform to other retail environments beyond fashion.
As Rob Murphy, Swirl’s VP of Marketing explained, “The platform is capable of now serving apps and experiences which support any retail environment. In particular, we now have plans to go into department stores and big box retail stores."
“The platform is an SDK that we can now put on anyone’s existing mobile app,” he added. This allows Swirl’s platform to be easily integrated into large retailers and department stores who already have their own mobile apps. As Murphy said, “[The retailers] can add the SDK to deliver Swirl’s in-store experience.”
Combined with Swirl's "marketing console", marketers and advertisers can now manage campaigns, targeting, content, and analytics based on a customers location in a store.
As far as partnering with Hearst for the latest round of funding, Murphy said, "We’ve been looking for strategic investors and had some interesting conversations with Hearst as a publishing organization and someone who is talking to these businesses all the time."
As far as what Hearst gets out of the partnership, "It's a great way to bring some new technology into the publishing world and bring more value to their advertising," Murphy concluded.
In the press release announcing the deal, Scott English of Hearst Ventures commented, “We invested in Swirl because the company is a leader and innovator in mobile marketing and retail engagement, which is the last frontier in influencing buying behavior."
“Many of our advertisers and partners are looking for new and effective ways to deliver personalized messages to consumers at the moment of purchase and nobody does that better than Swirl.”
Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.