Tech

Conversational data platform taps AI for sentiment analysis

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Communication software platform maker Arena – a provider of a Slack-like chat or bot conversation column to the right side of your screen when you’re on an ecommerce site – is endeavoring to bring more human understanding to online marketing and sales. That, in turn, works to establish better rapport with potential customers for ecommerce businesses.

The San Francisco-based startup’s group chat and messaging application framework for B2C enterprises, having earned the attention of investors, yesterday announced a $13.6 million Series A round led by CRV with Craft Ventures, Artisanal Ventures and Vela Partners also participating. 

A key marketing trend in 2022 is for consumer companies to find ways to move beyond social media and third-party cookies as a way of gaining better direct insights into their users and customers. Five-year-old Arena recognized this early and built a SaaS platform to replace the need for third-party referrals and social networks, CEO and founder Paolo Martins told VentureBeat. 

This no-code communication platform uses engagement data gained from conversations and combines it with artificial intelligence (AI) to better understand who might want to buy what among its customers, Martins said. Sentiment analysis identifies changes in emotion and behavior during interactions with customers, so the experience can be improved in the future.

Predicting customer movement

“We are creating a real-time engagement for every single website and mobile app,” Martins said. “We are helping with a movement by assisting companies such as ecommerce, event organizers, publishers, media, broadcasters and online educators to bring that conversation to their mobile website, increase engagement and help with the conversion of users (into buyers). We have a data platform that understands the customer behavior, and we are able to understand and predict the customer’s behavior.”

Proclaiming predictability may be a humanizing component, but it is a pretty bold statement.

“We built a scalable and easy-to-install chat solution that focuses on building communities and increasing transactions such as live shopping, subscriptions and donations,” Martins said. “It all comes with our customer data platform that converts into first-party data and deeply understands customer behavior using AI. We understand how customers think and have a pretty good prediction record.” 

Founder’s roots in Hulu, NASA

Martins previously was one of the first employees at Hulu, where he built ad products to help scale the company to 7 million subscribers and $1.1 billion in revenue. In an eclectic IT career, Martins also was a data engineer at NASA in Houston, where he worked on the algorithm that discovered water and ice on the surface of Mars. 

​​This is a key moment in the world of martech, Martins said. Due to privacy issues and conflicts involving Facebook and Apple, many companies have shifted their data sourcing activity from third-party to first-party data. With the end of the cookie era, brands and consumer enterprises will focus on building social products and gathering their own customer data rather than relying on the Googles, Facebooks, Amazons of this world to provide the information, Martins said.

Since its launch, Arena has focused on building the product-led growth motion and expanding its customer base to 25,000 accounts, all organically, Martins said. Clients include Vans, Vimeo, Adobe, Asana, Avon, Facebook, Microsoft, Fox Sports, Sony Music and a long list of others. 

No-code approach appeals to users

“We attribute our success to our product-led growth approach because I really believe that product engagement is the ultimate weapon to grow. Now we’re helping every website to build conversations and understand their customers with just one line of code,” Martins said. 

And what would that one line of code entail?

“It’s simply a line that connects a site to the APIs,” Martins said. “We have a long list of standard ones, plus a lot of others, that can be deployed easily, and you don’t have to be an IT person to do it.”

For example, Arena is partnering with Shopify and other key ecommerce players to make quick connections. 

Angel investors participating in this round include Datadog founder Olivier Pomel and CPO Amit Agarwal, Intercom founder Des Traynor, Shopify former CMO Jeff Weiser, former VP Growth Segment Guillaume Cabane and former Miro CMO Elena Verna.

The funding will be used to scale the sales and marketing organizations and bring Arena to consumer enterprises looking to increase engagement and conversion, Martins said.

Arena competes in a burgeoning market, according to G2.com, with MyAlice, Voyage, AiTrillion, Chatra, Frizbit, and several others.

Arena’s business model operates on a per-seat basis based on interaction volume, starting at $99/month for a small to medium-size business to $25,000/month enterprise deployments.

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