For an e-commerce business, a high click-through rate is the gold standard. Brands pull all sorts of tricks to optimize their click through and open rates on email marketing messages, when one of the channels they ignore is the channel that consumers are using most often – their mobile phone. Attentive is a mobile marketing platform that can drive your e-commerce business by providing personal messages to stimulate marketing and sales growth. Communicating one-on-one has proven to be an effective mobile strategy and with Attentive, marketers will be surprised at how quickly results come in. Already working with a number of high growth startups such as Boxed, Teepublic and BarkBox, the company is proving just how imperative it is to be Attentive.
AlleyWatch chatted with CEO and cofounder Brian Long about the company, its future plans, and its most recent Series A round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We closed a $13 million Series A investment led by Bain Capital Ventures, along with participation from Eniac Ventures and NextView Ventures.
Attentive is a new mobile marketing platform that helps retail and e-commerce businesses engage with customers through personalized text messaging. Using real-time data, we send relevant texts to each subscriber— customized product recommendations, notices about limited-time sales, or shopping cart reminders, for example. We even have some customers working with us to offer shoppers customer service and payments via text message.
Despite operating in stealth until our fundraising announcement this week, we have 50+ customers from innovative brands like Boxed, AMOREPACIFIC, and Boll & Branch. Marketers are seeing incredible performance: 30%+ click-through rates and 10x higher revenue per message than email marketing.
Are consumers resistant to receiving texts from brands?
Not at all. Our customers routinely tell us how Attentive is exceeding expectations for the number of subscriber sign-ups, interaction with messages, and total revenue driven. Messages can only be sent to subscribers who opt-in, and we made sure that our solution is completely legally compliant.
What inspired you to start the company?
My last company, TapCommerce (sold to Twitter), was also centered around solving challenges with mobile consumer engagement, but was focused on apps. My co-founder from TapCommerce, Andrew Jones, and I became increasingly more interested in what we believe is the next big opportunity in mobile marketing— messaging.
While there are a number of businesses out there right now building customer service chatbots that operate within messaging apps, the power of using native SMS/MMS messaging as a marketing channel for full customer lifecycle communications has been overlooked.
How is Attentive different?
As our name suggests, we’re committed to delivering a thoughtful, personalized experience for each messaging subscriber. We set out not just to build something that is extremely effective for marketers, but is also very useful and engaging for end consumers.
Early on, we conducted focus groups to learn more about what people across a broad range of demographics wanted to hear (or didn’t want to hear) about from brands via text message. We learned that people don’t want “one size fits all” content—instead, they want personalized updates via text when their favorite items go on sale, or if items in their cart are about to sell out. They want to chat with customer service via text. They’re comfortable buying things on their phone. We see a lot of opportunity to create something that better serves the needs of both consumers and brands.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Our current market is the e-commerce and retail space. By 2021, e-commerce annual sales in the US are expected to surpass $603 billion, and mobile is expected to account for 54% of that figure.
What’s your business model?
It varies by company size and needs, but ultimately we target 10x+ ROI for every customer.
What was the funding process like?
I’ve been through a few funding processes now. With TapCommerce, it was a long process as we met with over 40 firms. With Attentive, we were lucky to meet with a couple firms early on in the process. We found a great partner in Bain Capital Ventures, and were able to move quickly so that we could go back to focusing on the core business.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The biggest challenge is balancing competing priorities of the business while you’re actively fundraising. When you’re experiencing fast growth, you need to prioritize what is most important in the current moment while staying focused on the future path ahead. Put trust in your leadership team to keep everything moving along smoothly.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We are approaching two big megatrends— the shift from desktop to mobile commerce, and the growth of messaging as a user experience. Mobile commerce will be bigger than desktop commerce in a few years, which is amazing when you consider how quickly e-commerce overall is growing. The popularity of mobile messaging is not going away anytime soon, and marketers are only just beginning to scratch the surface of this channel.
How has your past experience founding TapCommerce impacted this business?
I learned so much from founding TapCommerce, and have been able to apply lessons from that experience. From a product perspective, there are many areas of overlap where our past work in mobile retargeting and commerce has been invaluable.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We have quarterly and weekly goal-setting processes in place across each area of the business. But right now, the most important milestone I plan to achieve in the next six months is continuing to recruit and hire an exceptional team. So much of any company’s success is determined by having the right people, in the right roles, who feel empowered to do impactful work.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Don’t be swayed by the first dozen “no’s.” With our last company, TapCommerce, most of the over 40 investors we met with for our Series A said no. Also, sometimes the urgency of capital constraints can help your team move more quickly.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Over the near term, I see Attentive continuing to partner with innovative retail brands that are thinking about mobile messaging in a new light. I see us building out our existing platform functionality, while also experimenting with some exciting new ideas we have.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Via Carota is really fantastic. You can’t order a bad dish, but you have to arrive at opening or late afternoon or else it’s a very long wait. Buvette down the street (shared owners) is also excellent.