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Optimizely shores up DX platform with Zaius CDP acquisition

CMS and A/B testing vendor Optimizely, formerly Episerver, acquires the Zaius customer data platform to extend digital experience and personalization capabilities.

Optimizely, the digital experience platform formerly known as Episerver, acquired the Zaius customer data platform to provide its users with deeper insight into customer activity.

The acquisition sum was not disclosed. The transaction is complete.

CDPs take in customer data from sources such as customer service, CRM and e-commerce applications, and feed it back into marketing automation tools and other systems that need real-time views of customer activity. CDPs are now table stakes for digital experience platforms, said David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute. But it's the extras that distinguish one from another.

Zaius offers more than 50 prebuilt connectors to e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and data clouds such as Snowflake, as well as 125 prebuilt marketing orchestration "recipes," which coordinate data flow between platforms for campaigns. Those will ultimately help Optimizely users, and more importantly, the integrators that help them put together their technology stacks, chief product officer Justin Anovick said.

Zaius also has analytics tools, which likely made it an attractive acquisition candidate, Raab said.

Easily deployed analytics for the end user is part of a bigger trend, said Predrag Jakovljevic, analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers. More and more, digital experience platform vendors include these tools to woo customers.

"Companies are looking to make the data in these CDPs power predictive analytics efforts," Jakovljevic said. "Users are beginning to expect insights in real time, in the user experience of the types of tools they use every day, such as CRM, martech and call center agent desktops. The more a software provider can use the data from a CDP and embed those predictive and prescriptive insights at the point of interaction, the more competitive advantage they will have."

Another day, another CDP acquisition

The CDP market has undergone dizzying change in the last few years as large vendors, including Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle and Adobe, released their own CDPs. CX platform vendors have snapped up numerous CDPs in the last two years. Among the highlights: Upland Software bought BlueVenn and Sitecore bought Boxever just this month. Twilio acquired Segment last year for $3.2 billion. Acquia bought AgilOne in late 2019.

Software vendors finally understand the value of CDPs as a foundational data tool to collect and reconcile customer data that their customers' apps generate throughout the tech stack, Raab said, so they need to build or buy them. The pandemic, too, forced companies to rapidly build digital experiences as businesses went into lockdowns and many people worked remotely.

Digital transformation has been supercharged by COVID-19.
David RaabFounder, CDP Institute

"Digital transformation has been supercharged by COVID-19," Raab said.

Optimizely had sought out a CDP to acquire for more than a year, and had considered several different companies, Anovick said. The company had its own data platform that dealt with the customer data its products generated, but realized it either needed to build or buy a CDP to ingest customer data from outside sources and to use the data for marketing campaigns. Buying a CDP was the more expedient means to get those features to market.

While CDPs have been the subject of much hype in the news of marketing automation, there are still a lot of companies that need to get their customer data houses in order before they can switch on a CDP to derive insight and context for marketing next best actions. Optimizely sees commerce, financial services and manufacturing companies as the main user groups that will likely take advantage of its CDP first.

"I can't tell you how many times I've talked to prospective manufacturer and distributor customers who are accepting faxes for orders," Anovick said. "It's shocking; I didn't even know fax machines existed anymore."

The company, with roots in web content management as Episerver, has been on an acquisitions spree since former SAP CX head Alex Atzberger took the helm as CEO late in 2019. The company bought Insite, a B2B e-commerce platform, and marketing A/B testing firm Optimizely last year. The company took on the Optimizely name because it was a more recognized brand, Anovick said, and also because it better explains what the company does -- optimizes digital experience. That, and it modernized the name by shedding the word "server," he added, which more accurately reflects a cloud company.

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