August 13, 2010, 4:18 PM

IBM buys marketing technology provider Unica for $480 million

It’s the latest in a string of marketing software acquisitions by IBM.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Lead Photo

IBM Corp. announced today it will purchase marketing services company Unica Corp. for $480 million.

IBM says Unica will help it better analyze and predict customer preferences and develop more targeted marketing campaigns. Unica sells software that enables companies, including e-retailers, to predict customer preferences and create, manage and analyze marketing campaigns.

Unica has more than 1,500 global clients in the financial services, insurance, retail, telecommunications, and travel and hospitality industries. Major clients include Best Buy Co., No. 10 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide and eBay Inc. This is IBM’s latest acquisition of a company that provides services to many e-retailers. 

IBM this summer purchased Coremetrics for an estimated $150 million.  In May, IBM bought Sterling Commerce, a provider of technology that helps retailers connect with customers and suppliers, from AT&T Inc. for $1.4 billion.

"Unica was a clear choice for IBM based on its power to automate a broad set of marketing capabilities and its established reputation for delivering customer success in marketing to organizations around the world," says Craig Hayman, general manager, IBM Industry Solutions.  

Paula Rosenblum, a managing partner at consultancy Retail Systems Research, says IBM wants to be a major technology provider for companies looking to market to consumers across all channels.

“It seems as though IBM has decided to own technology enablement for chief marketing officers, especially in retail and financial services, and in the world of omni-channel consuming,” he says. Omni-channel shoppers are consumers who want to shop through all channels­—stores, catalogs and call centers, online and mobile.

Mary Wardley, vice president of CRM and Enterprise Applications at International Data Corp., says Unica fills a big missing hole in marketing technology services for IBM. “Unica plays a very important role in their analytics and front office application solutions for the marketing function,” she says. “Without this piece they were short on the execution side. “

In addition to the analytics capabilities that Unica offers, IBM is also picking up a marketing resource management service as well as a marketing campaign execution component, Wardley adds. “The Unica technology, combined with Sterling Commerce and Coremetrics is a tour de force of capabilities,” she says. “It will take a company such as IBM and its resources to pull these all together. ”There is a lot of mergers and acquisition activity of late in the marketing technology segment, according to investment bank Petsky Prunier LLC.

Marketing technology was the most active segment among the seven marketing, information and digital media industries monitored in the second quarter by the investment bank.

In the second quarter, the segment posted 69 transactions—31 acquisition and 38 investments—valued at approximately $2.6 billion, Petsky Prunier says.

In addition to IBM’s purchases, e-commerce platform technology and services provider GSI Commerce Inc.’s bought Fetchback, a company whose marketing system targets consumers who have abandoned e-commerce sites; personalization technology provider MyBuys acquired  network optimization company Veruta; and community forum network company CrowdGather purchased ADISN, a provider of targeted marketing technology that encompasses data from social networks.

Additionally, e-mail marketing services firm e-Dialog, a unit of GSI Commerce, acquired MBS Insight, a provider of data analytics and marketing database applications, for $22.5 million.

Unica reported $100.62 million in revenue for 2009, down 17% from $121.13 million a year earlier.

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