IBM buying Unica for $US480 million

It will strengthen Big Blue's hand in targeted marketing

IBM said Friday it intends to purchase marketing software maker Unica for roughly US$480 million, in a move that will boost Big Blue's capabilities for creating focused marketing campaigns. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.

Unica has more than 1,500 customers, including major retailers like Best Buy and telecoms such as US Cellular, IBM said.

IBM's announcement follows its recent purchase of Web analytics vendor Coremetrics. Unica's software will work in concert with Coremetrics' technology as well as IBM's WebSphere Commerce platform.

The company's goal is to help customers generate a "consistent and relevant cross-channel brand experience to promote customer loyalty and satisfaction," according to a statement.

Vendors such as Adobe are making similar moves. In support of its "customer experience management" strategy, Adobe has purchased Web analytics provider Omniture and more recently, Web content management vendor Day Software.

Marketing specialists are "challenged to meet the priorities of the CEO," and need to more effectively understand how their customers are segmented in order to build loyalty among them, said Craig Hayman, general manager of IBM industry solutions, during a conference call.

IBM's move to buy Unica will help round out a portfolio of software that captures the "digital transformation" chief marketing officers and service providers face, said Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang.

"You start with key assets such as Coremetrics that provide insight, you leverage Unica for marketing automation, and you conduct commerce through Sterling Commerce," another recent IBM acquisition, Wang said.

It's unlikely that IBM will get into sales force automation capabilities sold by the likes of Salesforce.com, since that segment is largely commoditized and doesn't present much in the way of services revenue, Wang said. For his part, Hayman said IBM is focused more on the market for integrating CRM applications with others, evidenced by its recent purchase of data integration vendor Cast Iron Systems.

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