IBM Buys Mobile Messenger Xtify To Connect Commerce And Ads

Jay Henderson, IBMIBM is continuing to sharpen its focus on building its enterprise-based approach to mobile commerce and advertising with the acquisition of Xtify, a company that manages mobile messaging for brands. Read the release.

The deal, terms of which were undisclosed, is part of IBM’s expansion of its “smarter commerce” program that promises to bring together predictive analysis, targeting and personalization and cross-channel marketing. While that falls into the range of what all other “cloud-based” enterprise marketing providers from Adobe to Salesforce are doing, how these tools are packaged is important as each tries to stand out.

And finding a way to connect social and mobile into a wider chain of customer relationship and advertising tools is becoming paramount for major brands.

“Obviously, mobile and social are like chocolate and peanut butter – they go great together,” said Jay Henderson, director of IBM’s smarter commerce initiative. “And the acquisition of Xtify certainly satisfies our abilities in both those areas. But for the most part, it will help provide a way for consumers and brands to connect one-to-one, whether it’s related to geolocation and in-store ads or broadcast to networks of consumers who’ve expressed interest in certain kinds of product messages.”

The deal follows IBM’s introduction last month of its Digital Marketing Network, a 100-member roster of DMPs, DSPs and search marketing providers that have connected their platforms with IBM. The names are familiar and include the likes of Turn, Criteo, BlueKai, DoubleClick Search, x+1, Marin Software and others. The creation of the network, in addition to the obvious marketing attention from such a partnership, also highlighted IBM’s recent acquisitions and new marketing offerings it has rolled out over the past few years, such as marketing tools from Unica and Coremetrics and commerce-focused units like Tealeaf and DemandTec.

Now that all that is in place, all that’s left is to fill in narrow gaps. As Henderson described it, Xtify is that bridge between the commerce side and the advertising/marketing area.

In a sense, Xtify provides basic blocking and tackling services for mobile, such as being able to identify the kind of smartphone a user has and making sure the graphics of a message fit that make and model. Second, Henderson said it also links seamlessly to basic items on smartphones such as Apple’s Passbook app or Google Wallet.

But it’s the data from that activity that could prove the most important for IBM’s wider enterprise marketing ambitions.

“Data is a big part of where the value comes from,” Henderson said. “One of the values that Xtify provides is giving marketers information on what types of messages their consumers are responding to and help them deliver a more relevant message and overall better customer experience. We’re trying to bring together that kind of information from mobile and other channels, so this acquisition is going to fit into a wide range of cross-platform capabilities, including email, direct mail and social media.”

As IBM tries to break up the silos around the variety of marketing channels, why acquire a mobile specialist, as opposed to just adding the necessary tools in-house? The main reason, Henderson said, is that Xtify is really good at what it does and it’s simply faster to acquire and integrate certain skills like mobile than building it from scratch.

“The Xtify guys are a market leader in mobile messaging, you can’t create that kind of expertise overnight,” Henderson. “Plus, they come to the table with an impressive roster of clients. We’re always looking for ways organically and through acquisitions to add to our portfolio. We saw an opportunity to extend our footprint in mobile with this deal, and that was more attractive to us than doing it ourselves.”

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