Targeting Moves Beyond the Banner

Much ink has been spilled and many lips have wagged over the topic of
targeting banner ads, but another breed of marketing company is focusing on
what happens after a prospect clicks and arrives at companies’ Web sites.
After all, if it’s so important that you reach people with individualized
marketing messages on banner ads, why does your concern stop when they reach your site?


Players in the space include Broadvision,
E.Piphany, Cogit.com,
and a little start-up called ResponseLogic.
For a peek into the world of these personalization players, let’s take a look at ResponseLogic,
a firm formed in March 1999 that just last month unveiled technology —
called ADAPTe — that helps marketers carefully orchestrate, and
personalize, the user experience on their Web sites.


Using data gathered from a variety of sources, including clickstream data,
client databases and third party data from companies like Cogit.com, ADAPTe
creates profiles of every individual that enters the site. It takes the
third-party database information and matches it up with any registration
information or cookies on the users’ machines, giving Web marketers a
pretty good picture of what type of person is coming on to the site.


Jill McKeon, vice president of Internet strategy at
SoldOut.com, a firm that sells tickets
and packages to high-dollar sold-out events like concerts and sporting
events, says this portrait of her site visitors was what encouraged her to
sign up to beta test ADAPTe.


“We’re trying to extract as much information as possible about the users of
our site,” said McKeon. “They’re going to allow me, behind the scenes, to
profile the site visitors.”


But collecting information about site visitors — data like income, age,
gender, marital status, and zip code — is only half of the equation.
You’ve got to use it to market effectively to your potential customers.


“What makes a salesperson effective is his personal knowledge of his
customer, what he or she wants and needs and what cross-sell and up-sell
items might be appealing,” said Jim Scott, president and chief executive
officer of ResponseLogic.


“At the start of the twentieth century, you received that kind of service,
attention and knowledgeable help from the clerk at your local store. Today,
we can offer that same level of service and salesmanship on the Internet.”


That’s the ideal outcome of using ResponseLogic’s technology. Besides
collecting and reporting on the people who are using the site, the system
allows marketers to tailor content specifically to those profiles. If a
married woman with children comes on your site, you might offer a different
“sale item” on the front page, than if a single, childless male visited,
for example.


The way this works is deceptively simple. Marketers come up with content,
and rules regarding that content, and enter it into the ResponseLogic
software. The result: if a customer with a specific profile clicks to at a
certain page, that action will trigger the matching content to appear on
that page. Like a profile-driven targeted banner advertisement, the right
content shows up in front of the eyeballs of the right consumers.


On SoldOut.com, McKeon says a male between 35 and 45-years-old might get an
offer for a special Bruce Springsteen package, whereas someone with high
income might see an offer for a Wimbledon package or a US Open package
(which starts at around $2500).


Of course, any talk of profiling is likely to raise the all-important
privacy question. ResponseLogic’s position on the issue is to use only
opt-in anonymous profiles, which don’t include things like names or addresses.


One of the most interesting things

about ResponseLogic is its business
model for the technology offering. The company gives away its software,
and gets paid only for performance. The software, says Scott, is no more
difficult to install than Microsoft Office, so there’s no charge for that.
Instead, ResponseLogic and its clients — which include
Citibank, SoldOut.com,
BabyAge.com,
Bibliobytes, and
Sundial — agree on a metric
by which the company will be judged. ResponseLogic declined to give
specifics on how much it might charge.


ResponseLogic says it is first focused on serving e-tailers, then plans to
move into selling its services to financial services firms. Besides ADAPTe,
the company also offers consulting, for which it charges for time and
materials.


Of course, the final piece of the puzzle is assessing the response to
different offers, and tweaking the ADAPTe system to be able to maximize
that response. So, part of the solution is reporting and analytics so that
marketers can, in real time, change offers as needed. The labor-intensive
part of all this, of course, is deciding what creative to use and what to
target to whom.


What is the result? Well, it’s not yet one-to-one marketing, but it’s
getting closer, and it’s getting easier for marketers to control. It’s not
hard to imagine that technology like that offered by ResponseLogic will
soon become a must-have application, quietly working behind the scenes to
make sure the right message gets on the right Web real estate, in front of a consumer
who will find it relevant.

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