Staples Builds Out Data-Driven Outfit With Runa Acquisition

StaplesArtStaples’ acquisition today of San Mateo, Calif.-based conversion marketing platform Runa is one more building block in the brand’s plan to construct a data hub within its own four walls.

Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Staples spokesman Mark Cautela told AdExchanger, “We looked at this primarily as a technology acquisition, but also as a talent acquisition. … We’re looking to add 20 to 30 more people to [the] twentyish-person [Runa] team right now that will bring it close to 40 to 50 people.”

Like Home Depot, which acquired pricing startup BlackLocus, and Walmart Labs, which bought predictive analytics platform Inkiru recently, more retailers are beginning to buy or build data-driven technologies in-house. The point is to be increasingly adept at analyzing and applying first-party data while fulfilling information needs at will. Runa claimed to help ecommerce companies increase sales by delivering targeted offers to individual shoppers.

“As a retailer, you can go down a couple of paths,” Cautela said. “You can do a lot outside through third-party experts. But what we like to do is bring Staples core ecommerce competencies in-house wherever possible. … With the Runa acquisition and down the road, you’ll see a combination of that real-time personalization and analytics in-house.”

The Runa buy is the third “Staples Innovation Lab” developed to date. Last year, Staples opened what the brand calls Velocity Lab, which is home to 50 employees and 25 “open seats” for developers or partners. Staples’ mobile team is based there and was responsible for launching the brand’s mobile website last fall.

“The speed at which things can get done in these labs is amazing,” Cautela added. “Last year we did a flash sale that began 11 p.m. Thanksgiving night that went until 5 a.m. [that was] online only. And then, from 5 a.m. to 12 p.m., it was available through your mobile phone but the coupon could only be used in-store. So, it was driving traffic to the store with a mobile flash sale.”

Staples, Cautela said, is further developing another innovation facility in Seattle that will tailor its focus on search and ecommerce engineering.

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