Spring Metrics has been through it all in its handful of years since founding.
Founders have come and gone. Management has come and gone. Venture capital has funded the business and so have its own profits. There have been layoffs, and product and market switch-ups.
And today, the company announces two more big changes, ones that board and team members are convinced will earn the traction they’ve sought since the beginning.
Today, Spring Metrics pivots from a focus on e-commerce to hospitality clients and announces a new name and brand to reflect the change. The Raleigh startup with tools to better understand traffic to a website and convert visitors to buyers is now called Spring Engage.
“We’re becoming more of a real time customer engagement solution for hotels,” says marketing manager Beth Harvey. “ We want people to understand the value of our software beyond the analytics.”
Board chair and former CEO Peter Bourne calls Spring Engage a case study in startup because of its various iterations over the years, but insists one focus has stayed constant—maximizing value in the market and for the shareholders. The company’s various leaders have been relentless about that.
“It’s been a great experience,” Bourne says. Spring Engage is profitable today with hundreds of existing customers, including a growing number of hoteliers and hotel management groups.
Hoteliers need technology
The next iteration of the startup will be all about targeting them—the owners of 53,000 hotels in the United States with 75 rooms or more. Compared to the saturated market of e-commerce technology, there are a lot fewer software companies focused on hospitality. And many in the industry are unbundling the hotel with new lodging types and third party booking sites, according to a recent CB Insights report
Spring Engage wants to help the hotel owner drive bookings to its own website versus those third party sites. That drives up margins and profitability.
“We’re providing something a lot of hotels are looking for,” Harvey says. “They understand they need to keep more bookings on site and direct.”
The transition is happening after months of research by Spring Engage President Shawn Williams, who was promoted from a sales and operations role earlier this year.
According to Bourne, the board charged him with figuring out what to do about the still slower-than-expected growth rate after three years. Spring Metrics had attracted a few hospitality customers and Williams noticed their loyalty to the product and high conversion rates.
He realized he could provide more value to businesses selling $250/night hotel rooms than e-commerce companies with much smaller average shopping carts.
Hoteliers, whose business is bricks and mortar, were also less tech savvy. A simple but powerful solution like Spring Engage made a lot of sense for them. Williams came to the board with a proposal to continue providing the core product to the existing e-commerce customers but to shift the business to focus on winning hospitality clients.
The decision has been a good one so far. Testimonials are adding up. According to Williams, one property recently ran a campaign using Spring Engage and generated $100,000 in additional revenue in a one-month period. And that was only targeting 10 percent of website traffic.
Spring Engage has found so far, that the right messaging turns a browsing session into a booking one.
The Spring Metrics background
Bourne has always recognized the power of the technology. That’s why the former Silicon Valley startup executive joined the board in 2012 and committed to helping the company reach its potential. It's now one of a handful or so startups that Bourne is involved with.
Spring Metrics was founded in 2010 by four men, many of whom serial entrepreneurs. Doug Kaufman dreamt up the idea when he wanted to better understand traffic coming to a site he built to sell educational materials. He recruited a team of software engineers to build a tool to provide analytics about website visitors to retailers but the men struggled to monetize it, Bourne says.
Co-founder Shannon Bauman eventually built a product that used the insights collected about website visitors to personalize real-time messages that could pop up during a visit and prompt them to buy. For example, a message could offer a particular discount on an item or category that person has searched in the past.
While that additional offering helped Spring Metrics turn a profit and bring in hundreds of e-commerce customers, it never got big enough for the founders and shareholders.
Kaufman told me earlier this year that he thought more research needed to be done to find product market fit. He left when the board wanted to press forward instead of doing that R&D, and soon after took over the product team at transportation software innovator TransLoc. He’s since been named CEO, recruiting Spring Metrics co-founder Scott Lacy in 2013 to join him as director of product at TransLoc.
They raised millions in funding, with the last round closing in 2012. Investors include ExitEvent parent Capitol Broadcasting Co’s New Media Group, Madison River Ventures, angel investor Lee Buck and LaunchBox Digital, the predecessor to The Startup Factory accelerator in Durham. Spring Metrics participated in its 2011 class.
The new leadership is the right leadership
Williams joined the company early in 2012 after a career in sales at Dude Solutions, Parata Systems, Sageworks and other Triangle-area software companies.
Says Bourne, he’s proven “an absolute passion” for making Spring Engage work, which prompted the promotion to president.
“Shawn’s got exactly the right set of capabilities and skills for managing this relationship-oriented space that we’re in and for being innovative within that space.,” Bourne says. “We’re lucky to have him.”
Williams and Harvey have begun attending conferences and events, and will continue to do so in hopes of bringing aboard more management groups as well as digital agencies that have hotels as accounts. They’ll also build a bigger team at a new office in HQ Raleigh.
They've released a product called Visual Targeter which provides an interface for hoteliers to see who is on their websites, from what sources they're coming from and who is leaving without booking. They hope to help hoteliers make more informed decisions and to take advantage of "Smart Offers," which let them tailor messages to visitors in hopes of converting them to buyers. Another offering drives visitors to "Like" a hotel's page on Facebook or provide an email address to earn discounts and deals.
Outside investment could enter the equation next year.
Bourne hopes to find opportunities in the industry beyond what the company can fund organically. He expects to begin talking to outside investors in the first quarter of next year.
In the meantime, customers are the focus. According to Harvey, the new name shows a mission to help hotels engage their customers during a website visit and create a better on-site experience and prompt a booking.
"We're moving away from metrics and analytics and focusing on how we can help hotels build better relationships with their customers," Harvey says.
The whole team hopes this time around, it sticks.
Pictured above: Shawn Williams is president of Spring Engage, which was rebranded from Spring Metrics in October 2015. He's joined by staffers Mitch Thurston, Beth Harvey and Lane Jarred. Credit: Spring Engage