Blue Martini Targets Customer Prefs

SAN FRANCISCO (05/03/2000) - At its annual user conference here this week, software developer Blue Martini launched Version 3.1 of its Customer Interaction System, an enterprise-scale application for live interaction with customers, and detailed partnerships with two system integrators.

Version 3.1 includes modules for support of wireless touch points, enabling a retail store salesperson, for example, to use a handheld wireless device to aggregate relevant information for cross-sales and up-selling, according to Bill Evans, vice president of marketing for Blue Martini. Evans explained that a Saks Fifth Avenue salesperson using the wireless device could, for example, suggest a shirt and jacket that complements the pants a customer liked or suggest other similar merchandise based on customer preferences.

Version 3.1 also offers support of multiple currencies and multiple languages, but only in single byte characters, so the languages are limited to Latin character-based languages such as French and Spanish, Evans said.

An unusual feature of the Blue Martini platform is the emphasis placed on data mining and analysis -- about half of Blue Martini's resources are directed at data mining, reporting, and personalization capabilities, Evans said.

"Half of our company behaves like a BroadVision, and the other half like an E.piphany," Evans commented.

Version 3.1's E.piphany-like traits include strong features for data visualization, such as 3-D rendering of data analysis, empowering data mining and revealing patterns of customer behavior, Evans noted.

"There's gold in that-there data. ... Visualization is compelling because the human eye has a sophisticated capacity for seeing patterns in data," Evans said.

Ben Bernstein, CTO and vice president for e-tailer Gazelle.com, primarily chose Blue Martini because of its dynamic merchandising engine, but would like to see Blue Martini develop dynamic pricing capabilities more akin to a business-to-business environment than business-to-consumer.

Berstein looked at building his platform from the ground up, and considered Open Market, Interworld, BroadVision, and ATG, but said he ultimately settled on Blue Martini for its scalability, well-defined architecture, and speed to implementation -- in Gazelle's case, 12 weeks.

Bernstein noted that his biggest complaint about Blue Martini was due to the company's growing pains, that most newer companies can't keep up with the necessary documentation.

"The level of documentation was not consistent with our developers' needs," Bernstein said.

Also at the conference, Blue Martini partnered with Emerald Solutions and Inforte Team. The company's relationships with the two system integrators ensure that its Web site operations can easily integrate with back-office fulfillment, according to Evans.

Blue Martini Software, in San Mateo, California, can be found at www.bluemartini.com.

Geneva Sapp is an InfoWorld reporter.

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