Last year's winner of the Travolution Award for Best Technology Innovation believes it can help travel firms generate better return on investment in quality content to engage potential customers online
Company Profile: Smartology intelligent content matching adtech platform ready to scale
Smartology is looking to build on last year’s Travolution Award win and scale its business, with travel seen as a sector primed to benefit from its contextualised adtech platform.
The UK-based business, which raised £2.8 million in Series A funding at the beginning of 2019, is a champion of quality content and wants to make the investment firms make in producing it work harder.
Smartology’s Smartmatch platform works by understanding the themes and topics of content on popular high quality websites and then matches that with content from its clients.
Unlike traditional programmatic marketing, the technology does not simply look for keywords but drills down into the sentiment and true meaning of the content to guarantee a close semantic match.
In 202, Smartology scooped the Travolution Award for Best Technology Innovation and this year it has been shortlisted in two awards for the work it has done over the last year with premium operator Oceania Cruises.
Mark Bembridge, Smartology founder and chief executive, said: “We were thrilled to win the award last year, it was fantastic.
“At the time it was early days for us, but we are growing significantly and we have raised another funding round during difficult times and have a very healthy valuation.
“We are very pleased that we now have capital in the bank given the tough market conditions and we’ve pretty much tripled the size of the sale team over the last couple of months.
“Traditionally, we're a technology company with a lot of engineers and few sales staff and we have focussed on the B2B sector in financial and professional services, tech and business education.
“The point of fundraising was to reverse that and build out the commercial resource. With that comes the ability to focus more broadly on B2C and beyond our traditional client base.
“We are very proud of the tech and where we’ve got it to. It’s taken an enormous amount of investment and effort, but we are kind of done with that now and we know it’s working.
“Of course, we have a tech runway and we will continue to develop it, but for us as a business it’s really now about taking the opportunity to scale.”
Smartology believes that travel firms are often sitting on a wealth of quality content that although costly to produce is undervalued because is not considered to have a decent return on investment.
Smartmatch deploys Artificial Intelligence to change that equation and ensure content is properly valued and firms, therefore, are incentivised to produce more of it, creating a virtuous cycle.
“When budgets are stretched targeting becomes a lot more important and making that budget really work for you as efficiently as possible,” Bembridge said.
“A lot of travel firms have content that’s dormant. We see it in other sectors too, because the technology has not yet existed to unlock that and yet huge amounts is spent producing this content.
“They must have teams of people in-house and third parties producing this content and it just sits on their websites were it’s not easy to find unless it’s surfaced from homepage.
“It might be helping their SEO but it’s not helping them find new customers so they see no return on investment.”
Bembridge added: “We’ve just started looking at some of the airlines and they’ve got amazing destination content in the same way that Oceania has on the destinations it travels to.
“As a customer, if you’re reading about a destination on the Guardian or CNN and you see great destination content that’s relevant the propensity to engage is much higher than just serving an ad.
“For us it’s about the quality of the content but also the breadth of topics. It’s also about hot topics that are trending like sustainability and the cost-of-living crisis.
“If travel brands are very clear about their efforts in these areas, we can match articles that focus on that to other relevant articles.
“We can hoover up all of the branding content and thought leadership from a brand, not just two or three items. In some cases we have brands running 600 content pieces.”
Smart matching of relevant content is having a dramatic impact on certain Key Performance Indicators for Smartology clients, claimed Bembridge.
“We have, for example, three of four clients who have been telling us they are getting average dwell time of eight minutes. Most people get seconds.
“Those are the outliers, but all of our clients are getting dwell times in the minutes rather than seconds.
“We track click-through rates, but it’s in the post-click attribution where we perform highly. Clients can add tracking codes to the campaign so they know the user came from Smartmatch.
“We turn traditional display banners into native units that are content driven featuring editorial, video, podcasts, whitepapers or webinars and we can change the call to action.
“The client is able to capture that user and see bounce rates, dwell time, how many pages they visit and ultimately they capture them by inputting their details to enquire more about that holiday.”
“We can track what content items from the client side are seeing the highest engagement. So, for instance, we can see which destinations are the most popular.
“As we build more clients in the travel vertical then we will have a wider dataset which we can then anonymise like which we do in other sectors to understand what the trending topics are.”
Smartology is rapidly increasing the number of premium publishers it has in its network having gone from 50 at the beginning of the year to over 300 now.
This has seen it become multilingual, with the platform now capable of working in German and French with Spanish and Portuguese the latest to go live.
Bembridge said the number one thing clients are looking for is “brand safety” and the knowledge that it won’t appear alongside inappropriate content.
“You might want to be sitting alongside an article about the cost of living but you don’t want to be alongside an article about a family that’s suffered a terrible tragedy because of it.
“Because it reads the news and understands those articles in detail, our solution also understands what is inappropriate and we can tune that very finely.
It’s semantic and based on the AI it looks for permutations. It’s much more secure but also it means we can finesse that brand safety much more carefully.
“For example, people may be super-excited to visit volcanoes, but we can make sure if the volcano is erupting and there are lots of casualties we are nowhere near that content.
“It’s the nuance within the content that we are now able to handle which would have been impossible in the past.”