Survey of developers shows how much it costs to add personalization to sites

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oldclass: 2 As long as marketers have been using the Web to drive sales, one of the big selling points has been how the Web can be used to target niche markets by delivering messages directly to people who are specifically interested in hearing them.

Push technology has taken targeting in a new direction by sending content right to users without them having to look for it.

Customized views

Web sites have also seen an increasing trend toward personalization of content. Sites such as Yahoo! deliver ads based on the search terms that people enter. Yahoo! and the Weather Channel are just two examples of sites that allow users to create their own customized versions of what they want to see when they come to the home pages of those sites.

For marketers, being able to target individual surfers can be a great boon. "Marketers will not find a medium that is more dynamic and immediate anywhere," says Eve Geroulis, director of marketing for Chicago-based Information Inter.Clear.

Ms. Geroulis says marketers should view the Web as a more controlled and contained environment than other forms of marketing. "Marketers need to be clear how their target base will be using the medium in the long term."

The flow of information goes both ways in the personalization equation. As Nathan Foreman, VP, New York-based i33 Communications Corp., points out, "In order to personalize effectively, users generally need to provide sites with a list of their preferences. With these preferences, marketers are able to target advertising messages directly to a user's interests and automatically direct users to other sales promotion areas or special offers that mesh with their needs."

In previous issues of NetMarketing, the Web Price Index has looked at adding registration to the sites of our hypothetical marketers. This month it focuses on using that registration data to customize Web content.

Small site could pay $10,000

Our small site, the hypothetical ACME Sprockets, added a second catalog to its content to better target visitors. For this work, the Index found a marketer could expect to pay a median of $10,000.

Investments R Us, our medium-size site, also took some of its existing content and enabled its users to create an online stock portfolio that gives them the information they're looking for as soon as they hit the home page. The medium site could spend a median of $16,000 for this feature.

The large site, Blockmonster Entertainment, took a direct approach by targeting album sales to users based on music preferences given when they registered for the site. Again, it took existing content and changed the way it was presented. The median price for adding these services was $26,125.

The low and high prices for this month show a wide disparity. The low price for the large site is lower than the low price for the medium site. This simply reflects the fact that some developers viewed Blockmonster's requests as less complicated.

Ms. Geroulis says the cost of personalization is worthwhile. "Marketers need to be clear how their target base will be using the medium in the long term. Whether you love or hate it, the medium is here to stay."

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