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September 10, 2018

How SessionM Solves the Customer Loyalty Problem

When you think of a loyalty program, what do you think of? Do you think of a stamped card you can use to get a free sub for every twelve subs you buy? Or do you think of a points program where you can redeem some seemingly-arbitrary number of points for a $5 gift card?

Oftentimes, these programs can feel unnecessary, and usually fail to offer a positive experience in the moment that a customer actually chooses to spend money. Moreover, many loyalty programs fail to utilize data appropriately, so a company doesn’t even know what they’re doing right or wrong.

SessionM is a Boston company that may have found a better way.

Through its SaaS-based customer data and engagement platform, companies now have the ability to gain greater insight into customer behavior and, in addition, offer a more effective loyalty program. The platform gathers customer data across every one of a client company’s channels, combines otherwise separate customer information into one unified profile, and can automatically respond to a customer’s action through its real-time rules engine.

“Our platform is purpose-built to create highly-personalized experiences where every single consumer feels, ‘this company gets me.’ They value me. They understand what I’ve done in the past, they understand what I’m doing right now, and they have recommendations for what I should do in the future. And it’s very unique to me. The way they engage with me is different from the way they engage with my friend or my wife, or someone who has only been there once,” explained CMO Patrick Reynolds, who joined the company in 2015.

patrick reynolds sessionm
SessionM CMO Patrick Reynolds.

They build profiles via three types of customer data: declared (data the customer knowingly offers on a survey or form), observed (which store location you visit, the fact that you like blue jeans), and calculated (proprietary data powered by machine learning that determines which offer a customer is most likely to respond to and how much a customer might be willing to spend).

On the consumer’s end, here’s how it works:

If you’ve been going to a website for two weeks, the platform can spot that and provide an offer for dollars off, a percentage off, or an upgrade to the next loyalty level in order to get you to come again. “We’re trying to share tailored offers and experiences that make consumers behave with more loyalty towards the brands that we work with.”

Reynolds explained that the company is offering Loyalty.X, which is about encouraging customer loyalty primarily through experiences rather than just points.

“We’re here to inspire loyalty through our customers, and the way we do that is through personalized experiences and offers, personalized content, and personalized messaging. It’s the experience they get as opposed to the points that they get for making purchases. People don’t care about points if they have a bad experience, and they don’t necessarily need points if they have a great experience.”

SessionM works with retailers, consumer brands, restaurants, and more. Essentially, any business with a consumer-facing presence that can benefit from a high-quality loyalty program. One example of this is Huggies.

“Initially, they didn’t have a great line of sight into who buys those diapers. Walmart buys a ton, as do Target and Costco, but the consumer was more of a black box. Our platform, combined with their ingenuity, has allowed them to understand, so much more deeply, the hot buttons, the lifecycle, and the buying process parents go through with diapers. What they buy alongside diapers. When they buy them. How frequently they buy them. So now they have much more of a direct relationship with the customer they didn’t used to have before.”

SessionM was originally founded in 2011 by Lars Albright, Mark Herrmann, and Scott Weller as a loyalty platform that worked with mobile developers in the AdTech space. While this proved successful, the founders made the decision in early 2015 to pivot towards MarTech when they realized that AdTech might not be the future.

“I really have to give it to Lars, Scott, and Mark, our co-founders, for realizing from a position of strength that, guys, this is not where the puck is going. This is where the puck is. And MarTech—as opposed to AdTech—is where the puck is going. If you pause for a minute and look back four years, you’ll see that that’s been manifest. AdTech has taken a real beating in a lot of quarters. MarTech is going up and up.”

The founders’ gamble proved correct, as the company raised over $90M in funding. Its most recent round came in July: a $23.8M Series E led by Salesforce Ventures. The purpose of this, Reynolds said, was accelerating Time to Value for clients.

“We have about 205 employees, and 150 of them are in Boston. The funding is to accelerate our ability to stand up clients looking to harness the power of our platform more quickly. To do that, we’re recruiting the best talent in the business and partnering with like-minded companies, which enables us to deliver more quickly and efficiently for clients, and allows us to continue to train and invest in our people to deliver on the next wave of innovation.”

Customer loyalty technology is not new, but the missing silver bullet has been the true value-add for the actual consumer. It seems like the practical application of big data and machine learning is actually making this promise a reality, and SessionM is ahead of the curve to capitalize on this massive opportunity in the market.


Alexander Culafi is a Staff Writer at VentureFizz. He also edits and produces The VentureFizz Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @culafia.

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