Cybuy's Services Promise More Direct E-Mail Links
Cybuy's transaction-enabled e-mail service would allow recipients to purchase products promoted in e-mail messages without being whisked away to a Web site. By clicking on a link in the e-mail, a small window pops up on the user's desktop.
The window is actually a Web browser, and its only function is to collect purchase information and execute the order. When the deal is done, the window closes and the customer returns to the e-mail program.
"Most e-mails link you to a Web site and then you have to go through the full shopping experience to purchase a product," said Sandra Robinson, president of Cybuy. "Depending on the Web site, it can be very slow and cumbersome. Our focus is giving retailers easy sales solutions and consumers a one-page ordering process."
Cybuy, New York, has been down the online impulse-selling road before -- it introduced transaction-enabled banner ads in 1999. It considers e-mail as the next logical extension of that service.
"Consumers buy on impulse in a number of different ways," Robinson explained. "The banner ad is one of them and e-mail is increasingly a mechanism where people are buying from." E-mail, with its higher click-through rates and more personalized delivery, may actually be better at inspiring consumers to make impulse purchases, she said.
While Cybuy's transactional banner ads have been in use since the latter part of last year, their effectiveness is uncertain. Robinson said the company is still delivering the ads and trying to learn what makes customers buy through a banner. In promoting the banner service last year, Cybuy touted its ability to target the ads through an extensive database. Robinson said Cybuy is questioning the cost-effectiveness of that added service as well.
"Targeting does increase the response rates but it also greatly increases the cost," she said. "Our experience with targeting is that the premium for targeted groups can be very high and one has to be very careful that paying for that premium is justified."
One company that tested Cybuy's transactional banner ads was Jeweler.com, New York, a business-to-consumer e-commerce site. Jeweler.com purchased and ran banner ads during the fourth quarter of 1999 and this year's first quarter, but decided to discontinue using them, according to Bruce Verstandig, CEO of Jeweler.com.
"It worked as well as could be expected," he said. "But like anything on the Internet, banner ads don't work. The days of generating business [from] banner ads are over." Cybuy's service did, however, win a few sales for Jeweler.com and promote awareness of its brand.
"It generated enough of a positive feeling to give them another chance," said Verstandig. What's more, the e-mails are a better match with Jeweler.com's business, which seeks to build co-marketing and co-selling relationships between the Web site and local jewelry shops. "We want to collect names and send out e-mail newsletters to those people. Cybuy's e-mail [service] fits right in there," he said.
Robinson said retailers would have to provide the e-mail names it wishes to reach with Cybuy-enabled e-mails. Since the retailers give the names of their current or prospective customers -- rather than Cybuy working to identify them -- the e-mail campaigns are delivered to a clearly targeted audience.
In addition to going after retailers directly, Cybuy is trying to develop business relationships with e-mail outsourcers so they can recommend the service to their clients. Robinson said the company would have more details about future partnerships and how it would charge customers for the e-mail service within the next two months, as Cybuy is currently testing different payment structures.