Technology Roundup Products on the Cutting Edge
Products on the Cutting Edge
By Noelle Skodzinski
It's just like the modern-day chicken and egg: Does technology evolve and change society? Or does society demand technology to adapt to change? It seems with direct marketing, the technological chicken and egg arrive at the same time, spinning around each other in a tenacious dance.
"Click-to-call" technologies became available just as companies began trying to improve unchartered customer-service issues on cold, impersonal Web sites. (If click-to-call is still new to you—as it is to many—you can read more about it below.) But, with do-not-call legislation a reality, demand for this technology is growing fast and will likely take current products to new extremes in the next few years.
But whether demand-inspired or demand-creating, there are many new technologies in place that, like click-to-call, aim to help direct marketers succeed in today's online and offline, highly targeted, highly competitive and challenging marketplace. Here are just a few:
Test Banners Real-Time
No longer is evaluating a banner ad's success a slow and imperfect process. Planning Group International, a full-service direct marketing firm, has launched a product that is likely to change the face of online advertising. BridgeTrack lets companies test online banners and track response rates in real time and respond accordingly.
For example, Company B could slate four banner ads for rotation on a publisher's home page, meaning that each time the home page was loaded, a different one of the four ads would appear. (BridgeTrack essentially is serving a different ad to the publisher for each request for the ad.) BridgeTrack enables companies to monitor the performance of those four ads in real time, and then drop the worst-performing ad from the rotation after, say, 5,000 click-throughs.
For more information, visit www.planninggroup.com or call (305) 253-0100.
An Upselling Chat
InQ has pioneered a new use for chat technology (used to communicate in real-time with online customers): the online upsell.
InQ's "chatskins," or windows, facilitate real-time post-purchase messaging with customers. While reply messages actually are typed in by customer service reps (CSRs), which inQ CEO Steve Nober refers to as "'net reps," each rep can manage eight to 10 chats at a time.
Clients can run tests with inQ on small numbers of customers first, as well as on different offers. If clients opt to use a thank-you offer from one of inQ's partners, there is no charge for the service, and the client gets a percentage of all sales. If a client upsells its own products, a fee is charged.
For more information, call (800) 868-0898 or visit www.inq.com.
Not-so-pushy Customer Service
Click-to-call technology enables customers browsing a company's Web site to type in their phone numbers and click on a button to have a CSR call them. (Many products enable PC users to actually speak to a rep through their PCs.) "Calls" come in to a company's inbound call center.
The most widely deployed click-to-call service in the world is eStara, with its Push to Talk. When customers are online and need help, they can click a button and get live help immediately, says Ian Halpern, eStara's director of marketing.
Costs for eStara range from about $2,500 to $10,000 per month, and vary based on a company's Web traffic and call volume. No additional software or hardware is required.
For more information on eStara, call (703) 648-8332, or visit www.estara.com (where you can click to talk!).
A CRM-MRM Epiphany
Two major players in customer relationship management (CRM) software and marketing resource management (MRM) software have partnered to launch the first-ever comprehensive multichannel marketing package that handles everything from CRM straight through to a campaign's production. E.piphany Marketing Management Solution is the brainchild of CRM software provider E.piphany and MRM software-applications provider SmartPath Inc. The integration helps unite CRM efforts with resulting campaigns in one streamlined program.
"This would allow companies to track a campaign from start to finish, from planning what they need to do and when it needs to be finished to tracking costs," says Melissa Needham, publicist for SmartPath.
Lyris Technologies has released a new version of its ListManager e-mail marketing software, version 7.5, that enables companies to launch automatic opt-in e-mail campaigns based on events, dates and even customer behavior.
The software would enable a retailer to know when its customers were online browsing for certain products, and the retailer could program the software's "rules" to send a special related offer e-mail to those customers.
"You could also set up more sophisticated rules," says Cristin Balog, marketing director for Lyris Technologies. "For example, an online gift retailer could quickly set up a rule that says, 'every two weeks, create a segment of everyone who made a purchase last year at this time; automatically send them a personalized offer from our 'Gift Advisor' two weeks before that date—unless they haven't opened up our last three e-mails to them.'"
An enterprise-level license of ListManager starts at a one-time cost of less than $30,000. Or, customers can choose to have the program hosted by Lyris for less than $1,800/month.
For more information, visit www.lyris.com/products/listmanager.
It's Magic ... or Actually, Magink
You might have heard talk of "magic paper" or "magic ink." Well, it's here. On Oct. 20, a company called Magink introduced the first application of its full-color digital ink display.
So what is it? Ruth Poliakine, Magink's corporate communications manager, explains: "We have developed a 'paste' made out of a mixture of different materials … [and] the ability to 'control' and drive this 'paste' in a way that each and every pixel will reflect a different color (out of a variety of 4,960 colors). Our paste could be placed in between two pieces of thin glass/plastic; so, you can imagine how it can potentially replace billboards, cover buildings, newspapers, wall papers, etc."
Single displays and networks can be remotely controlled by Magink NSDD software (networking solutions for digital displays) via a Windows-based graphic user interface (GUI) application. Magink displays also can display dynamic messages and can be changed regularly.
The signs are manufactured by Mitsubishi in Japan. Advertisers can use traditional file formats, such as JPEGs and BMPs, to create displays.
A new mail transfer agent (MTA) is on the market, and it's faster than a speeding bullet … well, maybe not, but it is faster than other MTAs on the market. Ecelerity V1.0, the new MTA released by outbound e-mail software applications provider Postal Engine, can deliver more than 1 million messages per hour (until now, the fastest speed was about 800,000 messages per hour), without requiring the user to buy additional hardware or operating systems.
Ecelerity V1.0 also features "MultiVIP technology," which addresses the need for marketers handling multiple clients, titles or brands, to isolate e-mail campaigns with different IPs.
Ecelerity's "enterprise licenses" run from $3,000 to $15,000. For more information, visit www.postalengine.com or call (877) 887-3031, ext. 312.
Changing the Meaning of Online Catalogs
To more closely unite Web catalogs and other collateral to their printed counterparts, major companies are making use of recent technology that can take a company's PDF files used for print and recreate them online.
Two major players in this technology are P2i and RichFX. P2i's online renditions for clients such as Brooks Brothers, Lillian Vernon and Nordstroms look nearly identical to the clients' print catalogs. Online viewers can click on a product image for a closer view and more information.
Using RichFX's RichCatalog, shoppers on sites for Newport News, Pier 1 Imports and Spiegel, among others, can feel as if they are flipping through pages, as interactive features and animated visuals (using RichFx's "Click-to-Flip" animated page turn) recreate the page-turning experience.
Watch Your Call Center From the Comforts of Home
If you're spending thousands of dollars traveling to your call centers to oversee operations, you might benefit from a new product from LiveBridge, an international customer interaction services firm.
LiveBridge's new video monitoring service, currently operating from the company's headquarters in Delhi, India, allows customers to monitor live, real-time images of contact center operations around the globe. The service will be added to all LiveBridge facilities in the coming months. The system has saved one client more than $25,000 in travel expenses, says LiveBridge President and CEO Patrick Hanlin.
For more information, visit www.livebridge.com or call (503) 652-6000.