Kahuna comes out of the gate with customer engagement platform

We keep hearing about the value of customer experience from some of the world’s biggest software companies. Last week Adobe trotted out the customer experience system of record at Adobe Summit. Meanwhile, Salesforce announced its Integration Cloud. Today Kahuna, a Redwood City, California startup, announced a platform to compete with the giants to help brands build more targeted interactions.

CEO Sameer Patel says the company is a cloud service designed to give users more information with artificial intelligence underpinnings. The goal is to help them push the customer toward the sale finish line by reducing the online noise around a sale and keeping the conversation going when the customer goes quiet.

“If you are a seller we reduce cognitive overload for buyers by suggesting a few but better targeted products. Using AI, we optimize your message copy and subject lines. We can reduce shopping cart abandonment with better offers. We trigger real-time action to close transactions, facilitating paid placement and promotions,” Patel told TechCrunch.

This involves understanding the customer better and feeding the artificial intelligence engine, and that involves data, of course. Patel says the company spent a year just building a real-time data platform when it was formed in 2011.

“Kahuna can ingest data from live interactions via [our] SDK or third-party systems like order management. We can capture any new gestures from [these sources] and update the user’s profile in four seconds or less. Once that’s done, we apply AI to determine the best message, best time, best subject line, best device and best channel,” he explained.

Kahuna analytics dashboard. Screenshot: Kahuna

Whenever there is this level of customer data collection, there are questions about data privacy, especially with EU GDPR data protection rules on the horizon. “Even before GDPR, we always co-opted the user rights from the customer (the marketplace) and no more. iI you didn’t give the marketplace permission, then we don’t have permission. Period,” Patel stated.

A platform like this is only as good as the data integration points, and the company also announced a couple of big partnerships. “For this announcement, we are coming out the gate with Oracle/Responsys integration (their email marketing works with the Kahuna platform) and Magento (Kahuna will incorporate user signals from the commerce engine to make our user profile and AI work smarter).” He says the platform has been designed to plug in other services, and he expects that there will be additional partnerships over time.

Kahuna launched in 2011 and has raised $58 million in venture investment. The company’s $11 million Series A was led by Sequoia Capital in 2014, followed by a $45 million Series B led by Tenaya Capital in 2015