ZineOne is raising money to help e-commerce companies predict customer behavior

In-session marketing, a form of inbound marketing that attempts to analyze and influence the purchasing decisions of web and app users, is often challenging to implement. With so much competition for consumer attention these days, it’s rare that a brand is able to make a lasting first impression. According to Microsoft Research, only people spend about 10 seconds on the company’s home page if the page doesn’t immediately link to a marketing message.

Debjani Deb, Manish Malhotra and Arnab Mukherjee, co-founders of the in-session marketing platform ZineOne, tackled the hurdles of tracking down clients first-hand at their previous jobs. Deb previously co-founded EmPower, a firm that provided social media research and media monitoring tools, while Malhotra started his own company, Social Lair, to build social media capabilities for large enterprises. As for Mukherjee, he left Oracle to start Udichi, a computing platform for “big data” analytics.

In the early days of ZineOne, Deb, Malhotra and Mukherjee met at the Milpitas Library in Santa Clara and at local coffee shops to speculate about where online marketing technology was headed. They concluded that recording customer decisions in real time was the key to increasing conversions, launching ZineOne’s first series of products.

After landing clients such as Men’s Wearhouse, Wynn Resorts, Advance Auto Parts and Kohl’s, ZineOne has raised $27.4 million in Series C funding, the company announced today. SignalFire led the round, with participation from Norwest and others, bringing ZineOne’s total to $42 million.

“We believe in-session marketing is critical and perhaps the most important component of modern marketing for brands in a privacy-first world,” Deb told TechCrunch in an email interview. “What in-session marketing ultimately achieves is to allow brands to capture the optimal amount of conversions on their website, resulting in more efficient pre-purchase dollars and less reliance on remarketing strategies.”

ZineOne

Image Credits: ZineOne

At a high level, ZineOne — which caters specifically to e-commerce brands — uses AI to assess behavior and personalize individual user experiences on websites and apps. By monitoring a visitor’s first few clicks or taps, the platform can seemingly personalize the messages, discount offers and product recommendations they see in real time.

It is worth noting that at least according to some studiesa large number of users disagree with any kind a form of behavioral tracking for marketing. Some of the rejection may stem from concerns about biases in AI systems, which have the potential to impact the experience of certain customer segments. But Deb claims ZineOne has defenses in place to allay those fears.

For example, ZineOne uses anonymized session data to perform its analytics, Deb says—primarily a “detailed set of behavioral events” for each visitor, including product detail views, cart updates, and payments. Because the platform’s targeting stems from short-term behavior, it doesn’t need to store longitudinal identity or profile data, she argued.

“ZineOne’s in-session marketing platform focuses on these three key pillars: understanding in-session behavior for anonymous visitors (not just known customers), predicting outcomes, and taking the optimal set of in-session actions, Deb said. “ZineOne’s Early Purchase Prediction Model Says [brands] within 5 clicks which anonymous visitors are very likely to make a purchase, who is on the fence and who is unlikely to buy in this session. They are then able to drive experiences based on consumers’ propensity to buy today, right now, right now.”

ZineOne isn’t the only platform applying data analytics to drive e-commerce personalization. DynamicYieldwhich it was acquired by McDonald’s in 2019, before it was sold to Mastercard, used AI to personalize website content, insert product recommendations, and even dynamically change the layout of web streams. There’s also Metrical, which learns about those who visit a site who are likely to cancel or abandon their cart and “hyper-targets” those prospects to convince them to continue shopping.

But Deb says ZineOne stands out with the breadth of its AI system, which can also predict friction levels during the shopping process and price sensitivity at certain points in the session. The current product roadmap is focused on creating new predictive models and building new data visualizations, she said, as well as launching a self-service dashboard.

ZineOne also plans to expand its headcount, increasing it by 70% by the end of the year.

“ZineOne provides end users with a better personalized browsing and shopping experience without compromising their privacy through tracking cookies and shadow profiles… Now is the perfect time for in-session marketing due to many factors: consumer data privacy regulations are increasing and customer acquisition costs are increasing for retailers,” said Deb. “The retail sector saw huge e-commerce growth during the peak of the pandemic and now faces various challenges as the economy slows and inflation rises. ZineOne addresses a blind spot for these big brands that serves the needs of the anonymous consumer and recognizes what happens immediately while the consumer is actively engaged with the brand.”

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