New Online Technology Turns Web Cursors Into Selling Tools

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Internet startup Comet Systems (www.cometsystems.com) recently launched a product that lets Web publishers change computer cursors from the standard pointer into anything from logos and symbols to offers and calls to action.


Dubbed the Comet Cursor, the technology is in use on Comedy Central's home page at www.comedycentral.com. With the help of a plug-in -- a small piece of special software -- Comedy Central Web site visitors' cursors change from the station's logo to popular show characters like "Dr. Katz" and Kenny from "South Park" as they move the pointer across sections of the page.


1-800-Flowers, Westbury, NY, plans to make the Comet Cursor part of its redesigned site, which is scheduled for launch either just before the December holidays or by Valentine's Day.


"We are looking at this as another way to increase conversion," said Rebecca Kovrlija, general manager, business development, interactive services.


1-800-Flowers plans to turn more browsers into buyers by changing Web cursors into tulips and bursts that highlight product features, offer special pricing, give care-and-handling instructions and make gift suggestions, Kovrlija said.


"It's really a great way to highlight important details and bring more product information onto the page," she said.


The technology also should increase visitor involvement, Kovrlija said.


"Once the consumer realizes what's happening on the page, they'll want to roll the cursor over everything to see what's under all the other [product shots]," she said.


About a dozen larger firms like community site iVillage (www.ivillage.com) and CD merchant N2K's Music Boulevard (www.musicblvd.com) have licensed Comet Cursor technology, said Jamie Rosen, president of Comet Systems, New York. The cost to license the technology "depends on the site," he said.


Companies who design and serve banners have yet to license Comet Cursor technology, but Rosen said negotiations are under way.


"We're in deep discussions with all the banner networks like DoubleClick and their brethren," he said.


Theoretically, Comet Cursor also can be tied into a Web site's registration database so the cursor can present different offers according to whether the site visitor is a customer or a prospect, Rosen said.


"If you can think of it, we expect people to be doing it," he said. "Comet Cursor is a way for sites to use a piece of real estate that they otherwise wouldn't have access to."


The downside of Comet Cursor is that Web site visitors must download the plug-in before they can use it. However, the download only takes about 10 seconds on a 28.8K modem, and reportedly more than a million people downloaded it for Comedy Central alone in the first week it was available.


Comet Systems also is working to overcome the hurdles associated with requiring consumers to download software (most won't) by, among other things, negotiating with Netscape to get Comet Cursor bundled into its browser, Rosen said.
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