With Focus On Improving Sam’s Club Customer Relationships, WalmartLabs Snaps Up Silicon Valley-Based PunchTab

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WalmartLabs, the retailer’s Silicon Valley-based R&D group, announced this morning that it has acquired loyalty startup PunchTab, in order to better connect with and engage customers who shop at the company’s Sam’s Club stores. Terms of the deal were not revealed, but this is now WalmartLabs’ 15th acquisition since its formation in 2011, the company noted.

Previously, Walmart has acquired a range of startups whose technology it primarily put to use to augment its e-commerce efforts, including, most recently, social marketplace Luvocracy.

Other deals in recent years have seen the retailer snapping up technology from site-speed optimizer Torbit, data analytics and predictive intelligence startup Inkiruadtech startup Adchemy, mobile agency Small Society, cloud computing startup OneOps, and many others. Some of these more directly impact the consumer-facing experience of using Walmart’s e-commerce site, like when Kosmix was put to use to improve Walmart.com’s search efforts, while other technologies are used more behind-the-scenes.

However, in this case of the PunchTab deal, the focus is not – at least, initially – on improving the Walmart.com website, but rather on optimizing how Sam’s Club can better tailor offers such as savings, merchandise and services to its members.

Palo Alto-headquartered PunchTab, which was founded in 2011 and run by Hightail (previously YouSendIt) founder Ranjith Kumaran and Mehdi Ait Oufkir (a founding engineer at Hightail), began by offering to help businesses run their promotions and loyalty programs, but later shifted its efforts towards enterprise customers like Kroger, Arby’s, Nestle, The Yankee Candle Company, and others, in order to help them gain better insights into their customer behavior in physical stores.

The company’s platform offered a way for businesses to communicate with consumers across social media, email and elsewhere, determine which marketing efforts were actually successful, segment consumers to personalize their offers, and then track the changes in consumer behavior related to those efforts.

For example, businesses could use PunchTab to create loyalty and engagement programs that collected real-time data by offering users a reward whenever they uploaded a receipt showing that they purchased a particular product.

According to CrunchBase, PunchTab was backed by $11.5 million by Mohr Davidow Ventures, Chamath Palihapitiya from The Social+Capital Partnership, CrunchFund, Venky Harinarayan, and Anand Rajaraman.

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Walmart says the acquisition involves both a combination of tech and talent. Following the deal, six members of PunchTab’s team, including co-founder Mehdi Ait Oufkir, will join the customer acquisition and retention team at WalmartLabs. (Kumaran was no longer with PunchTab, Walmart tells us. He returned to Hightail as CEO prior to this deal.)

In addition, Walmart will now also gain access to PunchTab’s technology platform which it will use to improve its own customer relationship management tools – meaning those it uses to reach its customer base via email, on the web, on mobile devices, and in physical stores.

Immediately after the deal’s close, PunchTab will be working on bettering the way Sam’s Club members are targeted with offers at its stores, on the Sam’s Club app and on the website Samsclub.com. Afterward, the team will apply what it learned through building out tools for the membership club to other areas of Walmart’s business, including Walmart.com