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Crain’s Chicago Business

Highland Park-based OpinionLab has landed $15 million in venture funding as it tries to ride the twin waves of mobile commerce and big data.

The 14-year-old company is one of Chicago’s most innovative based on an analysis for Crain’s last year by researcher OceanTomo. It’s piled up 16 patents and has 14 more pending for technology that allows companies to get online customer feedback alongside technical data.

It counts half the Fortune 50 among its customers and a total of 3,000 large brands.

The funding from Memphis-based SSM Partners will allow it beef up sales and marketing staff, as well as professional-services team to help companies interpret and use the data collected from consumers.

The company has 85 employees and expects to add another 20 percent over the next 12 months.

“Historically, we’ve been focused on R&D and innovation,” say Jonathan Levitt, chief marketing officer. “It’s now about scaling the business and marketing, beefing up what we already have.”

OpinionLab added technology to the old ways of customer research, such as focus groups and customer surveys, speeding up the process. Now it’s trying to help customers bridge the retail gap “from online to offline to mobile.”

The company previously had self-funded most of its growth. It sought outside capital from a venture fund as the “showrooming” phenomenon has taken hold in retail, with customers coming into stores but comparison-shopping on their mobile phones and often purchasing online while on the retail floor.

“Customers are untethered, bouncing back and forth from one channel to another,” Mr. Levitt says.

That’s causing large companies to look harder for data that can help them keep track of customers who shop or interact online, in stores and, increasingly, on smartphones.

Among the Chicago companies involved in various aspects of the big-data commerce trend are MuSigma and BrightTag.

Increased activity has led to a wave of consolidation among the providers of such technology, with giants such as IBM Corp. and Adobe making acquisitions.

“This space is consolidating quickly,” Mr. Levitt says. “What happens after we scale is anyone’s guess.”

This article can be found here.

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