In 2011, dunnhumby, a global marketing and advertising company headquartered in London, acquired BzzAgent, Boston-based social marketing and brand advocacy company founded by Dave Balter in 2001. Since then, BzzAgent and its “word-of-mouth” brand of marketing has continued to thrive as a part of dunnhumby, which is itself a subsidiary of multinational grocery and merchandise retailer Tesco.
Dunnhumby is an international marketing research company that came to prominence due to its customer loyalty card program for Tesco. It added BzzAgent to the fold because of the Boston company’s success in using loyalty card data to inform manufacturers and retailers of customer habits.
Recently, dunnhumby has taken more interest in what was happening at its Boston office and is centralizing its advertising media technology operations around much of BzzAgent’s data-driven marketing work in Boston, and making the South End office its development center.
“We largely ran independent the first three years, where we were really a separate operating unit running our business as it was, and we did pretty well,” explained Chip Terry, dunnhumby Boston’s senior vice president of engineering and its global product director.
During that period, Terry said that dunnhumby realized the benefits of being in Boston. “The people you can hire in Boston, you just can’t hire anywhere else,” Terry said. “If you look at the density of software engineers in Boston, it’s denser than almost anywhere else. The expertise exists here.”
Terry said that the dunnhumby leadership came to the Boston team with the belief that they could take on more responsibility for the company’s global marketing.
Currently, dunnhumby is operating in 18 different markets worldwide, and has shopping data for more than 600 million customers — who the customers are, and what they are shopping for. Clients are mostly in the grocery industry, including parent company Tesco, Kroger, and Metro, the third-largest grocery operator in Canada.
The Boston office’s current project focuses on building a media products platform that can let its clients manage their media portfolios through insights and more targeted media. The new marketing tool makes marketing to specific shoppers much more efficient — for example, sending a coupon for contact lens solution to a consumer the who may be running low on the product.
“We can do much more with data than other companies can do because of our partnerships,” said dunnhumby marketing and communications director Brian Cavoli. The new marketing tools also have a dashboard that allow the company’s clients know how their media is performing in real-time.
dunnhumby currently employs around 60 people in Boston, but the company plans to expand that to 100 employees by the end of 2015.