Startup Plans Personalization Services

FRAMINGHAM (04/03/2000) - Startup eCustomers.com Inc. this week will begin offering centralized personalization services to enable e-commerce Web sites to immediately recognize visitors and customize pages accordingly, even if the shopper has never been to the particular site before.

The Austin, Texas-based company will sell its software along with access to a database of consumer profiles. The service, which will become generally available next month, will allow e-commerce sites to instantly recognize a visitor's profile, align it with product lines and customize the site accordingly, explained Jeff DeCoux, founder and CEO of eCustomers.com.

The consumer profiles begin as demographic and lifestyle "CyberClusters" that aren't personally identifiable. Site behavior during a visit is added to the profile, and other businesses using eCustomers.com will have access to the updated profiles, DeCoux said.

Company officials didn't specify pricing but said revenue would come from a combination of transaction fees, software and consulting services fees.

The data-sharing arrangement is unique, DeCoux said, because, starting in midsummer, customers will be able to log on to eCustomers.com and edit their profiles.

"This is the first system out there that gives consumers complete control of the data about them," DeCoux said. People can add more information about themselves, specify which companies to share data with or opt out, he said.

Boosting Purchase Rate

ECustomers.com is aiming to improve the low purchase rate among Web surfers.

Only 2 percent of visitors to a site buy something, and only 5 percent buy again at that site, said Jamie Allen, vice president of development and operations at the company.

"What [marketers] haven't figured out is how to turn first-time visitors into buyers," said Richard Clayton, vice president of marketing at Angara E-Commerce Services Inc. in Mountain View, California, which plans to launch its own Web page personalization system next week.

Up-front personalization improves the chances that a visitor, generally pressed for time, will buy, said Jack Sansolo, executive vice president of global brand direction at Eddie Bauer Inc. in Redmond, Washington, and an eCustomers.com advisory board member.

He said his company will "more likely than not" use eCustomers.com to help expand its knowledge of its customers.

"We know everything about your purchase history at Eddie Bauer. ..but we don't know anything else about you," said Sansolo. "This allows us to learn more about you, if you choose to do so."

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