B-to-b sites get personal

Key to success in details

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Finding software that has the capability to provide detailed customization for specific industries is key to maximizing the success of these efforts, Corvill said. For example, if a company sells specialty chemicals over the Web to research labs or chemists, a well-customized site will automatically include a request for safe shipping requirements for certain types of poisonous materials, he said.

Software vendors that focused initially on the business-to-consumer side should be challenged to demonstrate how well they understand the particular industry and whether they can offer in-depth customization that can bring true value-added efficiencies to a b-to-b site, Corvill said. Some vendors offering strong customization abilities in certain industries include Click Commerce Inc., Comergent Technologies Inc., Enigma Software Group Inc., Entigo Corp., InterWorld Corp., Ironside Technologies Inc. and SpaceWorks Inc.

National Instruments Corp., a manufacturer of measurement and automation hardware and software for engineers, rolled up its sleeves and developed a personalization capability in-house through user profiles. Registered users log in to MyNI, an area of the site that recognizes individual users, where they are taken to a Web page that includes listings of nearby sales engineers and news in their preferred language, said Denise Winkeler, Web content manager.

"It took six months and lots of effort to build our engine in-house, but we’re glad we did it, and now we can enhance it as we go," she said.

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