Retail analytics firm Dunnhumby acquires BzzAgent

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UK-based retail analytics company Dunnhumby has acquired social media marketing firm BzzAgent, the companies said May 23.

Dunnhumby CEO Simon Hay said his company bought BzzAgent to better track consumer touchpoints, given the increasing importance of digital marketing. BzzAgent recruits more than 800,000 consumers to test client products and serve as brand advocates using social media and word of mouth. The deal closed May 19, said Hay.

“We built our model around understanding consumers and understanding how to use that insight to build their loyalty, and we've also looked to increase our capability in the social media space,” he said. “With [BzzAgent], we saw a company we thought had a good model, an interesting model, and had similar values, similar ways of thinking and similar objectives.”

The deal will combine Dunnhumby's loyalty marketing programs with Boston-based BzzAgent's brand advocacy initiatives to deliver “true ROI” to clients, said Dave Balter, CEO and founder of BzzAgent.

“The ultimate measurement scenario is in-store. So we look at this and say, ‘How do you tie social media to shopper marketing?'” he said. “This [acquisition] is clearly the best possible way we can do it.”

Balter will report to Hay and serve as a member of the company's executive team. BzzAgent will continue to operate as an independent brand.  

Dunnhumby, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UK retailer Tesco, will retain BzzAgent's 60 full-time employees and 200 contractors, said Balter. He added that the firm plans to hire “about 10” full-time employees this year.

Hay said news reports that valued the deal at $60 million were inaccurate, but he declined to reveal the acquisition price.

BzzAgent clients include Unilever, L'Oréal Group, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. and Michelin. Hay said all of BzzAgent's clients will be retained.

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