WPP is taking a stake London-based commerce startup eCommera, which is also working with the holding company's clients such as cosmetics maker Clarins and luxury shoe designer Jimmy Choo.
The investment came as part of a $41 million Series C led by Dawn Capital. WPP participated in the round and contributed an undisclosed sum.
The move reflects WPP Chief Sir Martin Sorrell's message: that data expertise and services will be a key focus for the holding company going forward.
ECommera boasts an "exclusive" relationship with former-Amazon chief scientest Andreas Weigend, who develops algorithms for the company.
While lots of technologies for retailers are designed for marketing purposes, eCommera helps on the backend, storing and managing retailer data and platforms for in-store and online order and inventory management, fulfillment, CRM, and sales analytics. The firm, founded in 2007, works with clients including Neiman Marcus, Brooks Brothers and Sur La Table.
With 70 clients in 32 countries, the company aims to bolster its U.S. and Canada presence, and expects the recent cash infusion to facilitate that. John Squire, eCommera's North American president, said he expects ties with WPP to remain close. "They're certainly a very vocal voice," said Mr. Squire of WPP.
ECommera's point people at WPP are David Roth, CEO of the holding company's retail division, The Store, and Mark Read, strategy director and CEO for WPP Digital. As for the influential Mr. Sorrell, said Mr. Squire, "I've only met him once."
WPP formed its ventures arm in 2012 in conjunction with its acquisition of digital agency AKQA. The group has invested in Fullscreen, a YouTube video network, and Muzy, a mobile photo app firm. WPP has also participated in earlier funding rounds for Ecommera.
Mr. Sorrell has stressed the importance of data-centric business approaches recently. "You have to have a data business," he said during an earnings call in October. "We have clients who are investing $4 to $4.5 billion a year in a real data business. We have to link it to what we do in media and digital."
Along with Dawn Capital and WPP, investors in the funding round include ePlanet Capital, Frog Capital, Westcoast Capital, Wti. Ecommera and WPP did not disclose the portion of funding that came from WPP.