Experian Sells Hitwise To Connexity, Simmons To Connexity Owner Symphony For Up To $52M

Some more chopping, changing and consolidation in the worlds of traffic analysis and fraud protection. Today it was announced that Experian, one of the world’s biggest credit ratings agencies, is selling off its two well-known analytics divisions in a $51.5 million deal. Hitwise, the traffic measurement company, is being sold to Connexity; and Simmons, which publishes the National Consumer Study (a huge marketing information and consumer usage database) is being sold to Symphony Technology Group, the private equity company that owns Connexity.

STG and Connexity say the two transactions together were completed for $46.5 million, plus a further potential earnout of up to $5 million. (We are asking for more detail on the price.)

The two groups currently operate as Experian Consumer Insights but gradually will get separated over 2016, the companies said.

Experian itself looks like it will use the divestment to focus more squarely on its other lines of business, which include credit reports, credit ratings and fraud protection businesses; as well as its own marketing tech products that let its clients create customer profiles to target promotions more accurately. One of Experian’s competitors, TransUnion, last week acquired Trustev for around $44 million to expand its capabilities in fraud prevention across e-commerce sites.

Connexity is one of the older e-commerce companies, founded in 1996 as Shopzilla and passing through a couple of ownership changes. It rebranded in September 2014 as part of a larger pivot away from comparison shopping and into big-data marketing services.

Using its existing shopping databases, along with those from previous acquisitions PriceGrabber.com, Become.com and Bizrate, Connexity will now be matching up that data with traffic information from Hitwise, to provide not only better data to its own shopping portals, but also to produce more detailed segment analysis to product marketers.

There is a bigger ad tech play here, too: Connexity says that its programmatic advertising platform connects into major ad exchanges to bid and buy programmatic ads.

Hitwise’s own change from website analytics to audience analytics also fits into this pivot, Connexity CEO Bill Glass noted:

“The combination of [Hitwise’s] AudienceView’s clickstream and panel-based data with Connexity’s programmatic audience targeting will enable our customers to research, understand and identify their target audiences, and their behaviors, and eventually, in the same interface activate those audiences,” he said in a statement.

As Connexity sees it, Hitwise will help it build out an “omnicommerce” strategy. “Once fully integrated with Connexity, retailers could, for example, use AudienceView to compare the demographics, preferences and web behavior of customers that shop at their physical stores, to the customers that shop online, and then use that data to rethink their ad creative, update their media planning and then execute a campaign from the same interface,” the company notes.

The acquisition of Simmons, meanwhile, will see the National Consumer Study publisher develop into its own standalone business.

The NCS covers some 8,000 brands, 500 product categories and “virtually ever conceivable media genre” in the U.S. — but its breadth and depth of data, and the fact that it’s based around American consumers, has given the NCS an international profile and the data is used worldwide, with the data collected both online (you may have seen the pop-up questions yourself) and by mail (sometimes with a cash reward for filling out the info). Think of it as a very, very commercial version of the Pew Internet Study.

“Simmons’ core focus and vision is built on measurement science to efficiently and effectively measure consumer and media behavior by bringing together survey and passively collected data. With STG, we will accelerate this measurement vision to address the challenges in measuring today’s dynamic connected consumer,” said Pat Pellegrini, Ph.D., GM of Simmons Research, in a statement. “We found immediate alignment on our vision and synergies with STG. They have a tremendous track record of innovation in the market research and marketing science industry.  STG’s investment will allow us to further our continued leadership in consumer research and drive exciting new initiatives including brand momentum studies, consumer life stage analyses and targeted new media and connected device studies.”

It looks like Symphony may see some value in developing this as a business in its own right that could potentially be sold on to another market research business already tracking this kind of information, for example a larger advertising entity like WPP.

“We intend to work with the excellent team at Simmons to extend their capabilities, enriching depth, frequency, digital extensibility – and enabling actionability across devices. And as the media consumption fragments across channels, we believe there will be very compelling intersections between the depth of Simmons measurement and the real-time video measurement that we are building with Symphony Advanced Media. We anticipate an exciting road ahead to extend Simmons’ capabilities as a world class consumer research company,” added JT Treadwell, Managing Director of STG.