Long seen as one of the killer targeting applications of the Web, personalization is aiming to improve marketers' sales performance by tracking user behavior on a site, then serving customized pages with software such as Broadvision's One-to-One, NetPerceptions' GroupLens, Brightware's Brightware Server and Art Technology Group's Dynamo Personalization Server.
Now, some of these products are being adapted for use with corporate data warehouses (databases storing all kinds of customer information) and integrated with software available for marketers' call centers.
The idea is that when customers call into companies' call centers, operators should know what they've bought on the company's Web site, and the Web site should know about a customer's entire buying history with the company.
"Instead of seeing electronic commerce as a vertical market, merchants are trying to manage pieces of a customer relationship," said Jeet Singh, president of Art Technology Group, Boston. Personalization software is becoming that management tool.
John R. Samuel, managing director of interactive marketing at American Airlines, said personalization is something many sites are trying to achieve. It uses Broadvision personalization software on its site. "We had a head start with our database," he said. "Broadvision lets us leverage this data and get to market in five months."
In order to handle the load, however, software companies must make their products work with all of the different computer systems a company has, from standalone workstations to mainframe systems.
BEFORE THE SALE
NetPerceptions, Eden Prairie, Minn., says to make a sale, it must make its products work not just for a company's Web manager, but for its top marketing officers and computer department managers, said VP-Marketing Steve Larsen.
Once personalization software passes muster with marketing managers, new capabilities can be added to further integrate sales channels.
Another personalization company, Nuance Communications, Menlo Park, Calif., is integrating its speech-recognition technology with software from Broadvision Corp., Redwood City, Calif., so customers can query Web sites over the telephone.
"This enables someone to not only deliver self-service over the Web, but over the phone as well," says Nuance VP-Marketing Steve Ehrlich.
"Personalization means taking all the customer data you've gotten and doing something useful with it," said Sandra Vaughan, VP-marketing of Broadvision.
Managers can use Broadvision's Dynamic Command Center to make educated decisions. For example, at the American Airlines site (www.aa.com), business managers can sell and serve beer ads once they know users are 21 or older, Ms. Vaughan says.
Or they can implement if-then rules, she says. "If someone takes something out of the shopping cart after putting it in, offer them a 15% discount when they come back on that product."