Snaps — a technology company that makes chatbots and emoji keyboards for companies such as Sephora, Nike, Nordstrom and Simon Property Group — is readying for expansion with a $6 million venture capital investment.
The start-up raised the Series A round from Signal Peak Ventures. Brandon Tidwell, managing director at Signal Peak, will join the Snaps board. The additional capital, which brings Snaps’ total funding to $13 million, will be used to expand its product, sales and customer service teams, as well as open an office in London in January. Snaps is projecting 200 percent growth for 2017. Industry sources said the business is on track to have $15 million in revenue for 2018.
Vivian Rosenthal founded the business in 2011. Then, Snaps was making emoji keyboards as a means for brands to have more personal conversations with consumers, Rosenthal said, and eventually evolved to provide other services, like stickers for iOS 10 and chatbots through Facebook messenger. The business is also started to work on voice communication through Amazon’s Alexa and Google Voice.
“We are most interested in what does the next evolution of more personal communication look like?” Rosenthal said. “Voice is a really powerful medium to be able to have a conversation with a brand. We’re going to see more and more of that the more pervasive these devices get.”
“What we built is something we call the conversational marketing cloud,” said Jonathan Shriftman, director of business development at Snaps. “It’s the first end-to-end solution for digital marketers to help them acquire new customers in messaging, and then increase the lifetime value of those customers through social messaging chatbots and voice [services].”
There are two ways to provide personalized information to consumers, Rosenthal noted. One way, a Snaps-powered chatbot could have a potential shopper pick one of three different outfits to get a sense of his or her style and go from there — the other way uses artificial intelligence, natural language processing and algorithms to generated informed responses, she said.
Snaps has worked with Sephora and L’Oréal on social messaging projects, according to Shriftman, as well as Coach to build a sticker program where users could create and share personal pinboards via social messaging. The business also developed a digital concierge chatbot for the Simon Property Group that provided details on everything from sales to the Wi-Fi password, and helped Nordstrom build up its messenger users to almost 280,000. Nordstrom has used the messenger option to help with gifting ideas during the holiday season, Shriftman said — for the 2016 holiday season 36,000 links to purchase were sent through messenger.
For Nike Jordan, Snaps developed a 30-day workout that saw an “almost 80 percent completion rate,” Shriftman said, as well as a “style bot” that drove a 12.5-times higher click-through rate than the global Nike average, according to Snaps. For Dove, the business says it increased purchase intent 278 percent through the brand’s “Love Your Curls” campaign.
While Snaps provides services to a broad spectrum of categories, it has seen an uptick in fashion and beauty companies looking to use personalized messaging to reach customers, Shriftman said. “We’re particularly bullish about beauty, fashion and retail.…we’re seeing a lot of demand there, and we’re seeing it growing,” he said.