Kahuna launches RevIQ, adds AI to help brands communicate smarter using mobile

By Michael Carney , written on November 13, 2014

From The News Desk

Not all brand communication is created equal. Consumers react differently depending on the channel (email, mobile push, Web, etc.), the time of day, and the content of the message. What works for one channel or one consumer, leading to the desired purchasing or engagement behavior, can have the exact opposite effect through a different channel or when reaching another consumer.

So how are brands supposed to manage this confusing menagerie of marketing channels and consumer preferences?

Kahuna has established itself as one of the most popular consumer engagement platforms by helping brands and companies make data driven decisions about how and when to message consumers. Today’ it’s getting a whole lot smarter through the addition of artificial intelligence and automation via the company’s new RevIQ product.

“People don’t just have one device anymore, they have two or three,” Kahuna co-founder and CEO Adam Marchick says. “In this environment, sending the right message, to the right device, at the right time is crucial.”

Brands like,, and Hotel Tonight have been using RevIQ in beta for several months and have seen engagement with mobile push notifications increase from an average of 2 percent to as high as 21 percent when post-optimization, according to Marchick.

With email open and response rates plummeting, mobile represents an increasingly important consumer engagement channel. On mobile, however, attention spans and screen real estate are both in short supply making delivering the right experience that much more crucial. As Kahuna notes in its statement on the RevIQ launch, 70 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned today, representing a staggering $4 trillion worth of unsold merchandise. Kahuna believes that a majority of this business is recoverable through intelligent communication and retargeting.

The problem is, brands are historically terrible at this and apply a one-size-fits-all approach to communication. Depending on the product – is it a TV or a hotel room? – and the device the consumer is shopping from – a smartphone or a laptop? – the appropriate follow up is different. If it’s a high urgency item, like a dinner reservation, following up within 5 minutes via mobile push notification and offering a discount might be best. But if it’s an expensive consumer electronics product, an in-app message with additional product information sent several hours or days later might yield the best results.

RevIQ allows brands to programmatically A/B test various combinations of channel, content, and delivery schedules to determine the optimal combination for driving sales. The system then applies this knowledge across all future interactions that meet the same conditions.

“This is a delicate balancing act,” Marchick says. “We need to be careful not to bug people that will convert anyway. And we need to balance engagement and conversion, with opt-outs and app uninstall. I think the thing that’s becoming clear is that customer delight and company performance can coexist. There’s a new wave of marketer coming that puts customer experience first.”

Prior to Kahuna, Marchick held product and engineering roles at Facebook (Growth Team) and Oracle (Siebel), as well as a venture investing stint at Bain Capital. His co-founder and Kahuna’s CTO is Jacob Taylor, the founder and former CTO of SugarCRM. Given this pedigree, it’s little surprise that Kahuna has built a technically impressive product – the company was recently recognized by Google for its prowess in elastic compute. Kahuna has raised a total of $13 million from investors that include Sequoia Capital, SoftTech VC, Costanoa Venture Capital, Promus Ventures, and individual angels.

Beyond the technical horsepower, Kahuna stands out for the way its products empathize with consumers and the way it aligns itself with its client companies’ results. “Our job is to help great products and companies comm with customers,” Marchick says. “Kahuna customers are getting 5-star app reviews because they’re actually delivering value with good push messages, rather than just spamming consumers mindlessly.”

Kahuna’s customers attest to this fact. KarmaLoop Chief Strategy Officer Leandrew Robinson tells Pando, “We are content using Kahuna because the data they measure is the same data that we care about, did the revenue go up? And the answer is yes. Our mobile revenue has grown 300 percent since we adopted RevIQ, and our total mobile revenue share has grown from 20 percent pre-Kahuna to 35 percent today.”

Just as importantly, Robinson adds, KarmaLoop has been able to support this growth without any increase in its mobile team, which still stands at just two people. “We’re on the edge of early adopters, so if effectively driving mobile engagement was this challenging for us, it’s gonna be worse for everyone else. RevIQ has been great for us because is doing the hard thinking that we won’t have the time or expertise to do.”