Bargain.com Upsells Are Seen as Well as Heard

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Bargain.com is taking the live upsell, once solely the realm of telephone agents, and bringing it online with pop-up text chat boxes used to entice new customers to try free-trial memberships.


After accepting a free-trial membership to Bargain.com, Web site visitors get a pop-up box inviting them to click to hear about other free-trial offers. Those who do are connected via chat box to an online agent from InQ Inc., a Sherman Oaks, CA, company that provides live online upsells and order confirmation.


Bargain Network Inc., Goleta, CA, offers members access to information about vehicles, homes and other large-ticket items that are available at discounts from foreclosure and seized-property sales and auctions. Members pay $9.95 monthly for the service after a 30-day free trial.


The company has used various offline media in its marketing, including direct mail and print and TV direct response ads, but has always used upsells to boost its profits, said Rick Fisher, vice president of marketing for Bargain.com.


"The upsell has been an integral part of our telesales," he said. "We wanted to roll that over to our Web acquisitions."


Of those who accept Bargain.com's free-trial offer, about half choose to interact with the live Web agent, Fisher said. The rest get a follow-up telemarketing call, which InQ provides through its call center partner.


About half of those people interact with the telephone agent, and those to whom the call doesn't get through receive a follow-up e-mail giving them another opportunity for a text chat. Ultimately, nearly every new customer has been contacted directly with an upsell offer, Fisher said.


On average, InQ clients see about 50 percent of new customers interact with the online text agents, said Steve Nober, president/CEO of InQ. Close rates for the text chat and outbound telephone upsells average 30 percent for InQ clients, with gross conversion rates averaging 15 percent to 17 percent.


Fisher declined to reveal sales figures generated from the upsells. But he said the upsells raise Bargain.com's average sale per order, thus increasing the site's cost-per-acquisition threshold and giving it more leeway to spend on marketing.


"InQ helped us grow our ability to attract profitable customers online," he said.


The services offered in the upsells are provided by InQ's partner companies. However, Bargain.com has chosen InQ partners with upsells compatible with its own core offering, in particular discount club memberships.


The upsells generally are also free-trial offers, just like Bargain.com's core offer. Customers who accept the trials must submit a form of payment and are charged if they keep the service beyond the trial period.


The system ensures continuous service for those who choose to keep their membership and helps Bargain.com make sure customers don't repeatedly accept free memberships and cancel to avoid paying, Fisher said.


Bargain.com constantly tests new upsells to find effective offers.


"We want people to experience it before they make a decision," he said. "We look for upsells that work the same way."


Bargain.com has tested live online upsells against "static" upsell ads, such as regular pop-ups and Internet ads that lack a live interaction component, Fisher said. The live upsells, which have been used at Bargain.com for about a year, always blow the static ads away, he said.


"It always helps when you have someone minding the store, so to speak," Fisher said.


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