Internet World product rollouts to boost sales

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This week at Internet World, software companies will introduce new and upgraded products to put more targeting power in the hands of online advertisers.

The effort to make electronic shopping as personal as a visit to a small shop will take a step forward as NetPerceptions, Eden Prairie, Minn., announces three personalization software products.

The company will announce version 4.0 of its recommendation engine, now called NetPerceptions for E-Commerce, as well as software targeted specifically to ad servers and call centers.


The software uses the day and time of an Internet visit, as well as a user's own preferences and those of other people, to recommend other products to buyers at a Web site.

For example, users coming to an investment site during the time the stock market is open may be better targets for financial services information, since they are in the investment frame of mind.

About 60 sites, including bookseller, music store CDnow and online grocer Peapod, are now using NetPerceptions for E-Commerce, said Steve Larsen, VP-marketing and business development at NetPerceptions.

The company will also announce NetPerceptions for Ad Targeting. NetPerceptions, which licensed OptiMatch from Neural Applications, Des Moines, will resell under the new name.


The product builds decision trees based on a site's content and the time of day a user visits, then serves appropriate ads.

"You can click on an ad and see where it's performing and where it's not, against a standard on your site," said Mr. Larsen, explaining that the service compares click-through rates for all ads at all times, in order to deliver the data immediately to advertisers.

Over time, the product also adds user behavior and on-site buying patterns to improve ad targeting, he added.


Stockpoint, an investment news site, has been using various versions of OptiMatch since last October.

"The financial services sector has traditionally had lower click-through [rates] than the Web as a whole," said national advertising manager Todd Herrold. He said the ad-targeting software doubled Stockpoint's click-through rate from 0.5% to 1%, and the rate continues to climb as the product's database of user behavior grows.

Finally, NetPerceptions for Call Centers will be formally announced October 12. The product will integrate with mail-order company mainframe computers and telephone switching systems, and is designed to make better upsell offers to callers.

NetPerceptions for Call Centers will use each buyer's past purchases and those of similar buyers to offer recommendations that may be unrelated to the original call, but have a better chance of being accepted and increase operator productivity, Mr. Larsen said.

"[NetPerceptions] has done a lot of performance enhancements and tuning," said Geoffrey Bock, an analyst with market researcher Patricia Seybold Group, noting that collaborative filtering has become a technique that anyone with a database can use.


Also at this week's Internet World in New York, electronic commerce company Art Technology Group, Boston, announces Dynamo Personalization Server, a software system that includes an interface to help marketing managers decide what content to present to users coming to a site.

"There was no way to let businesspeople decide what to present to users," said Jeet Singh, president-CEO of Art Technology, referring to earlier versions of Art Technology products that were geared toward programmers. "Marketing managers want to immediately start segmenting [users]," he said, noting that users come to Web sites for sales, customer support, service and other reasons.

With the Dynamo Personalization Server, business managers can target users with recommendations, pricing, promotions and services.

Clients include BMG Music, Eastman Kodak Co. and Sun Microsystems.

Finally, Accrue Software, Sunnyvale, Calif., announces Report Wizard for Accrue Insight, a reporting interface that lets business managers create custom reports to help them target ads more effectively.

With Report Wizard, marketing managers can select what they'd like to see on reports, such as which ads are driving traffic. Reports can then be integrated into e-mail, spreadsheets, word documents and other formats.


"Business and marketing managers need to have a tool to do ad hoc reporting," said Vito Salvaggio, director of product marketing at Accrue, which develops electronic business software to analyze e-commerce activity. "This is an extension of taking the power of e-business analysis and putting it in the hands of business managers who make day-to-day business decisions."

For example, a marketing manager could ask to see all the traffic that came to a company's site from an ad on Excite, how long users stayed and if they bought anything.

Report Wizard will be a free upgrade to licensees of Accrue Insight 2.5, which include The Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News and N2K Music Boulevard. It will be available at the end of October.

Copyright October 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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