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ECommerceTimes.com

The Brave New Mashed-Up World of Online Sales

By Erika Morphy CRM Buyer ECT News Network
Jan 31, 2008 10:51 AM PT

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The Brave New Mashed-Up World of Online Sales

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The Up-Sell

Most of us have been approached -- gingerly, aggressively, desultorily -- by a sales clerk in a retail store at one time or another as we made our way empty-handed out of the door.

What one application -- UpSellit, a virtual chat e-marketing and e-commerce application -- has done is mimicked that last ditch save-the-sale intervention online.

"Imagine you're on a site, you've got a couple items picked out, and you decide, 'Nah, not going to buy now' and exit the screen," Glenn Russell, c-founder and CEO of UpSellit said. "Had this been a brick-and-mortar experience, a salesperson would have approached the customer" to see if he could salvage the visit.

Virtual agents initiate a chat to find out why the person is leaving the site, and if appropriate, offer a discount or other incentive for them to complete the purchase, as the above transcript illustrates.

It uses virtual intelligence technology to work with e-commerce sites to create a virtual chat agent prepared to answer product-specific questions, offer appropriate promotions and discounts, cross-sell related items and converse using company-approved branded messaging. The agent can also take on different personalities including playful, professional, sarcastic and aggressive, Russell said.

UpSellit customers report an average of 12 percent increase in revenue -- revenue that would have otherwise been lost, he added.

Adding Web 2.0 to Sales

Welcome to the latest incarnation of Sales 2.0, of which UpSellit is only one example. It is a subtle shift from the first iteration of these technologies, which are only a few years old. However, like the consumer counterparts, Sales 2.0 applications continue to refine and improve approaches.

For instance, they are becoming more sophisticated. The earliest wave of applications were one-off technologies such as social networking or invitations or discussion forums. Now, Sales 2.0 tools are adding value by combing content and other data points. They are also focusing more on the business case for these apps. Consider, for instance, the growing use of videos in real estate rentals and sales. According to Benjamin Wayne, CEO of Fliqz, a provider of plug-and-play video applications, visitors to real estate Web sites were four times more likely to rent a property with video than one with only text and photos.

Other examples include voice mashups -- voice services, such as a phone system -- that has been integrated with content from more than one source. Their emergence in the enterprise sector is illustrative of the momentum of these applications. Salesforce.com for example, recently announced a mashup with BroadWorks, a VoIP application produced by BroadSoft. The result is VoIP calling features -- such as click to dial, call hold and call transfer -- that can be used with SFA features in Salesforce.

Getting Vocal

ACT is another example, integrating BroadWorks VoIP features with its contact and customer management software application, so users can use click to dial, screen pop and call logging within the ACT interface.

"Voice is a critical application, and enterprises will increasingly expect all of their business applications to be integrated," Mike Lauricella, BroadSoft director told CRM Buyer.

Other examples use technology that has been around for a few years -- an eon in tech time -- but use it more efficiently in the sales process.

Mark Szabo, VP and Managing Director, of Critical Mass, tells of how the firm assisted in the recent redesign of the Rolex.com Web site, including the addition of a Google Maps-powered retail locator feature. "The application was developed to find where the user is located (via an IP sniffer), and then serve them with the most conveniently located authorized Rolex retailers," he told CRM Buyer. "It's less of a retailer locator, and more of a customer locator."

The technical challenge was significant, he continued. "Rolex.com is built entirely in Flash, but the Google maps API (application programming interface) only supports HTML-based sites. Therefore we had to write an entirely new Flash interface to support the overall solution." Rolex also asked that the company make the code available to the developer community as open source, Szabo said. "Thus far the response has been fantastic, and we look forward to building upon -- and benefiting from -- the innovations as they develop."


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