Digital Marketing Company Merkle buys startup 500friends

2014-11-19
Published : Nov-2014

Digital marketing agency Merkle announced that it has brought startup 500friends. Merkle Group Inc. which is a privately held customer relationship marketing agency specializes in data-based marketing solutions. In 2009, Advertising Age listed Merkle as one of the biggest and fastest growing agencies.

500friends which was founded in 2010 is the trusted provider of next generation loyalty marketing solutions to internet retailers and brands. 500friends is backed by leading institutional investors Y Combinator, Intel Capital, Fung Capital and Crosslink Capital, and the startup raised a total of $12 million.

Justin Yoshimura, CEO and co-founder of 500friends said that he was gearing up for the company’s next funding round and talking to potential investors, including Merkle. Merkle has already been 500friends’ largest channel partner.

Yoshimura added that the idea appealed to him because his goal is to turn 500friends into the loyalty partner for retailers. This acquisition will allow Yoshimura to focus on growing the product and customer base, and he further added that there’s a big “product synergy” in tying loyalty programs into CRM. He decided to make the deal because he wanted to build a major business and Merkle could help him get there quicker than he could on his own.

Merkle has a roster of large corporate customers across a range of industries including Visa Inc, Google Inc., Wells Fargo, Microsoft Corp., and Tiffany & Co.

The deal’s financial terms of were not disclosed, however, Yoshimura said the entire 500friends team will be joining Merkle, and he’ll be taking the title of vice president of loyalty.

Loyalty programs are growing in importance because people are more astute about their purchasing decisions, Mr. Yoshimura added that they do online research on Amazon and other sites and check out Yelp ratings to make sure they are getting the best possible deal.

Using 500friends’ platform on their sites, these businesses’ customers can create an account, get upgraded service and get points toward future purchases, among other benefits.

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