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Tools for tackling e-commerce

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Best known for its Web design tools, vendor Macromedia Inc. is making major moves into the e-commerce market, with a growing focus on b-to-b customers.

The company recently released new versions of the Web measurement and personalization technologies it picked up when it acquired e-commerce vendor Andromedia earlier this year.

Also on tap: a long-in-the-works, enterprise-scale content management platform that goes by the name Project Whirlwind.

For Macromedia, the new tools grow from its roots in Web design, said Paula Dieli, the company's director of program management.

Macromedia is calling its product lineup the "Web Content Lifecycle" and is designing it to help customers build, manage, personalize and analyze dynamic Web content, Dieli said.

In addition to moving into e-commerce, Macromedia is increasingly finding interest in its products from b-to-b customers, Dieli said. The company is already doing significant work with maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) distributor and marketplace owner W.W. Grainger Inc., with more b-to-b deals in the works.

"Over the past few months, we've been seeing a lot more interest from b-to-b companies. They have the same problems that b-to-c companies have been dealing with," she said.

B-to-b companies should find both of Macromedia's new tools of interest. The company's personalization platform, LikeMinds 5.0, is aimed at e-marketers that want to deliver more personalized content to site visitors.

"At checkout time, we recommend cross-sell and up-sell opportunities by analyzing the shopping basket," said Dieli. "We analyze all the shopping carts on a site and store every pair of products purchased together."

LikeMinds features a very simple user interface to let marketers--not just programmers--decide the rules that govern site personalization, Dieli said.

At the core of LikeMinds 5.0 is collaborative filtering technology to let companies analyze visitor buying patters in real-time while customers are active on the site. The tool can make recommendations in real-time based on clickstream analysis, purchase history, user preferences and product matching.

Recently launched Qrate.com, an entertainment rating service, uses LikeMinds to enable explicit, collaborative filtering on its site. The company has had the unique experience of helping Andromedia develop LikeMinds and then seeing its strategic partner acquired by Macromedia. The change has been good so far; Macromedia even helped support Qrate.com's launch with joint marketing efforts, said Matt Hansink, VP-business development at Qrate.com.

Moving forward, Qrate.com will look closely at other Macromedia tools, proving that at least with one customer the company's product evolution looks to be a success. "In the future, we'll look more at their Web authoring tools," Hansink said. "Having a company of Macromedia's size as a partner has helped us get our launch off the ground."

In addition to LikeMinds 5.0, Macromedia launched a new version of its Web measurement and analysis tool, Aria Enterprise 5.0. The platform provides users with site tracking, analysis and reporting tools.

Now users can access a wider variety of analytical tools, such as reporting tools from vendor Business Objects. The new database architecture will also let Aria handle the increasing levels of traffic all Web sites are facing. "We didn't realize the level of scalability we would need and the kinds of reports and details that would be required," Dieli said.

By counting on industry standard databases and reporting tools, Macromedia can focus on what Aria does best: monitoring Web traffic. "We're really in the monitoring business. That's where we want to focus our efforts," Dieli said.

Aria 5.0 ships with more than 80 out-of-the-box, drill-down Web traffic reports. The information--especially when used in conjunction with tools such as LikeMinds--lets marketers quickly act on real-time data and change site content to better meet users' needs, Dieli said.

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