Inference Unveils E-Commerce Automation Software

Share this content:
Inference Corp. is working to build its reputation beyond that of a customer service automation company with the introduction of new Internet marketing software - technology that will factor heavily in the company's restructuring strategy announced last month.


The firm introduced k-Commerce for Sales version 2.0 last week and hopes the software will appeal to e-commerce players, many of which have more immediate concerns than how well their customer service works.


"Everybody's looking at the top-line number," said Willem Maas, product marketing manager for k-Commerce Sales.


Inference, Novato, CA, has long been in the customer support automation business, selling software that helps run customer contact centers. Last month, Inference said it will divide the company into two units, one that still specializes in support and another that concentrates on merchandising technology for Web sites.


"We have two very focused objectives for this business in the year 2000," Maas said of k-Commerce Sales, the merchandising technology division. "One is to raise mindshare for this side of the business. Inference is not known as a player in the e-commerce space." The other, he added, is bringing in $7 million in revenue from the merchandising product by year end.


It's an ambitious goal for a company that had revenue of $22.9 million last year - a drop-off of 26 percent from 1998. Inference slid deeper into the red last year as well, losing $12.7 million, compared with a loss $1.9 million in 1998.


Garnering its share of the e-commerce technology boom means serving the priorities of e-marketers, whose needs differ from bigger, established companies that want to automate their customer service centers, said Bob Tatemichi, vice president and general manager of the k-Commerce Sales division.


Despite much talk during this past year among e-businesses and Net industry pundits about the importance of shoring up customer service, Tatemichi has found that, for the most part, online marketers are preoccupied with revenue rather than customer support.


"That's kind of the short-term mentality of the dot-coms," he said. "Today they're saying, 'Forget it. Just help me sell something. Help me grow this revenue stream. We'll worry about support later.' "


So the company introduced the first version of its sales technology last year. K-Commerce Sales has about 15 customers. A few of them, including health site drkoop.com Inc. and virtual bridal registry WeddingChannel.com, are being upgraded to version 2.0 now. Inference licenses the software for prices starting at $100,000.


K-Commerce Sales is a "rules engine," meaning marketers can use it to design the way their e-mail campaigns flow and how their Web site responds to visitors. It examines information customers have entered into the site through polls and registrations as well as their previous buying patterns. Other factors come into play such as when customers last visited the site, how long they stay and whether they respond well to cross-promotions.


The technology is designed to let marketers set up rules that automatically generate particular promotions, offers or other responses on the Web site based on those consumer profiles. It generates reports as well.

Sign up to our newsletters

Company of the Week

Since 1985, Melissa has helped thousands of companies clean, correct and complete contact data to better target and communicate with their customers. We offer a full spectrum of data quality solutions, including global address, phone, email, and name validation, identify verification - available for batch or real-time processes, in the Cloud or on-premise. Our service bureau provides dedupe, email/phone append and geographic/demographic append services for better targeting and insight. For direct mailers, Melissa offers easy-to-use address management/postal software, list hygiene services and 100s of specialty mailing lists - all with competitive pricing and excellent customer service.

Find out more here »

Career Center

Check out hundreds of exciting professional opportunities available on DMN's Career Center.  
Explore careers in digital marketing, sales, eCommerce, marketing communications, IT, data strategies, and much more. And don't forget to update your resume so employers can contact you privately about job opportunities.

>>Click Here

Relive the 2017 Marketing Hall of Femme

Click the image above