Despite the slowdown in the
Internet economy, the pace of development and invention in the
online space never seems to decrease. And my e-mailbox somehow never
seems to get any emptier. But among all the solicitations and the
spam, every now and again some things filter through that might be
worthwhile. Herewith a look at just a few:
First off, how about an "active sales assistant?" If you're
running a big site, you might want to take a look at Burlingame,
Decisions Inc.'s new interactive decision app for
The company says the consumer aid helps shoppers decide what to
buy in more than 120 product categories. The Active
Sales Assistant can be customized and integrated into
the "look and feel" of a licensee's Web site. SonyStyle.com
just signed to use it.
The assistant features an interactive question-and-answer format
that hones in on consumer preferences, generating personalized,
value-based recommendations. I've tried it and found it to be a
little tedious at times, but valuable in researching the purchase of
something like a new VCR or DVD player.
Each retailer's latest pricing and product availability
information is updated automatically via an XML feed. Active's
system, like a knowledgeable sales person, helps customers quickly
determine which product best meets their needs.
The only drawback here may be the cost -- prices for the fully
integrated, site-specific service begin at $100,000, according to
Secondly, I got something from AuctionWatch.com
that might be of interest if your e-commerce operation is not quite
the size of Sony's.
The auction management company launched a new service that lets
its sellers create their own storefront, enabling them to market and
merchandise their online auction business.
The feature is aimed at helping small businesses create an online
presence to help them build a brand and create trust and loyalty
among online customers.
The solution lets small e- businesses personalize their online
presence with their company's name, colors, logo, and tagline, as
well as merchandising and marketing their entire auction listings at
one Web location. You get a profile page to give buyers information
about the business, and there is direct e-mail capability.
Thirdly, if you're not totally fed up with reading analyses of
the recent holiday sales season, there is probably much you could
learn from Alexa
Research, which recently completed its report on
e-commerce in the fourth quarter of last year.
Highlights of the report include the Alexa Top 100 e-commerce
sites, as well as a look at the quarter week-by-week. Additional
data includes a comparison of multi-channel retailers and
pure-plays, a category breakdown of the top 100 sites that saw major
traffic boosts during the quarter, data on top sites for repeat
visits, and time spent on-site, etc. There is also something called
category snapshots, which highlight category leaders, top gainers
and weekly traffic reports.
You can access the data here.
Fourthly, how about a little sound to accompany your shoppers as
they browse your site? No, not music. You could whisper in the ears
of your customers. Really.
A UK outfit called Centacom is
offering real-time combined voice and Web site browsing that enables
people to talk and view the same Web pages with their customers or
business associates together over the Internet, down a single line.
They call it c-versation, or talk 'n' view.
The company claims its compression technology provides data
transfer three times faster than standard protocol voice service.
Customers browsing an Internet site can simply click a button and
be instantly transferred to talk to a human being who will be able
to see exactly the same Web site pages. While talking you can both
browse the particular site and products together.
They claim it's a unique service, and whether it is or not, it
might be something that you'd want to check out.
Lastly, I was bemused -- and saddened -- to see the launch of
something called Spamex. It seems the
junk mail problem has gotten so out of hand that parent company ClicVU Inc. thinks
there will be a market for a mechanism to create a new e-mail
address (a Spamex address) every time a consumer is requested to
provide their real address online for things like newsletters,
sweepstakes, e-commerce site registrations, etc.
E-mail sent to a Spamex address is automatically forwarded to the
real e-mail address and replies are routed through Spamex to protect
the real address too. Should unsolicited e-mail start arriving
through a Spamex address, the address can be disabled and the
unsolicited e-mail will be blocked, without affecting any of the
other incoming mail.
"Many people are reluctant to give out their real e-mail address
because they're afraid they will receive an abundance of unsolicited
e-mail and have no way to stop it," said Michael Cassara, ClicVU's
co-CEO. "Spamex alleviates this concern by providing people with a
simple mechanism to create new e-mail addresses that automatically
forwards all incoming messages to any address they specify, whether
it be a Hotmail account, AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, work, home, etc."
Spamex offers both free and paid service plans. ClicVU itself is
a service that allows consumers to save and recall advertisements
through a menu that is superimposed on banner advertisements.