Swirl Networks, Inc. today announced that it closed a strategic $8 million investment round led by Hearst Ventures, a unit of Hearst Corporation, to fuel the expansion of its technology platform into the large-scale, multi-category retail market. Swirl is extending its proven mobile marketing and personalization capabilities from specialty apparel and fashion retailers to the largest big box and department stores to drive in-store sales, customer engagement and loyalty. The round includes repeat investments from SoftBank Capital, a unit of SoftBank Corp., and Longworth Venture Partners.
Online retailers have perfected the technology that powers personalized and contextual shopping experiences while brick and mortar stores continue to search for ways to combat “showrooming”⎯ when shoppers use physical stores as showrooms, but purchase online. Swirl brings established online marketing and advertising technologies to physical retail locations through a combination of indoor positioning beacons, mobile apps and cloud-based services. In May, Swirl launched a pilot program with fashion retailers including Alex and Ani, Kenneth Cole, and Timberland that demonstrated high consumer engagement and sales conversions, with an unprecedented 75 percent in-store app open rate.
“We invested in Swirl because the company is a leader and innovator in mobile marketing and retail engagement, which is the last frontier in influencing buying behavior,” said Scott English, managing director, Hearst Ventures. “Many of our advertisers and partners are looking for new and effective ways to deliver personalized messages to consumers at the moment of purchase and nobody does that better than Swirl.”
Swirl leverages indoor micro-location targeting to deliver highly relevant messages, content and offers to consumers while they shop. First generation mobile phone location technology relies on GPS tracking, which drains battery, provides limited precision and does not work indoors. New indoor positioning technology (powered by Bluetooth Low Energy and supported by all major smartphone manufacturers) makes it possible to pinpoint a shopper’s precise location within a store, for example, the baby aisle or electronics department, in real time. By combining micro-location sensing with any retailer’s mobile app, Swirl’s platform makes it possible to deliver personalized and contextual offers, recommendations and content to shoppers’ smartphones while they browse specific areas within a store.
“Hearst is an important partner in pursuing this massive market opportunity,” said Hilmi Ozguc, founder and CEO of Swirl. “Major retailers are looking for a comprehensive omnichannel strategy that brings the immense benefits of online marketing and e-commerce to their retail store sales efforts. The retailers that can seamlessly couple mobile consumer behavior with in-store marketing technology will be the winners. Swirl offers the first and only fully integrated, enterprise-grade platform to provide the intelligence, micro-location targeting and campaign management necessary to handle even the largest retailers’ in-store mobile marketing needs.”
Swirl (swirl.com) is an in-store mobile marketing platform provider that is helping retailers leverage the power of mobile to attract and influence consumers while they shop in retail stores. Top retailers such as Timberland, Kenneth Cole, and Alex and Ani use Swirl’s patent-pending micro-location technology to increase their store traffic, customer engagement and sales conversions. The company is led by an accomplished entrepreneurial team and backed by top-tier investors including Hearst Ventures, SoftBank Capital, Longworth Venture Partners and General Catalyst Partners.
About Hearst Ventures
Hearst Ventures makes strategic investments in companies operating at the intersection of media and technology. Starting with its investment in Netscape in 1995, Hearst Ventures has grown to become one of the most active and successful corporate venture funds. Notable investments include Pandora, Brightcove, XM Satellite Radio, Eink, Sling Media, Exodus, Broadcast.com, Hootsuite, IGG and Buzzfeed. Hearst Ventures (hearstventures.com) is a unit of Hearst Corporation, one of the nation’s largest diversified media and information companies.