Software to Manage Lead Generation

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Information Week calls it "e-intelligence," and the Yankee Group terms it "Net insight." It's the information gathered about online customers that helps Internet businesses in their sales and marketing initiatives. Whatever you call it, e-businesses need it to attract and retain paying customers.

The Strategis Group indicates in its 1999 year-end study on Internet user trends that nearly 70 percent of online users browse for goods and services, leading to increased monthly online spending of almost $3.6 billion at the end of 1999. So a lot of people are ready to buy, but there is a lot of online competition and a high rate of abandoned shopping carts. Any online marketing effort will fall flat unless e-commerce companies use the right tools to turn clicks into leads, then into sales.

Assuming that e-commerce systems and technology are functioning properly, e-businesses are realizing the need to go beyond simply analyzing click-through rates. Basic clickstream data often are used to report the effectiveness of Web site designs and to calculate the ratio of new visitors to repeat visitors, but the questions that need to be answered have become more complex. Which promotional efforts attract the most profitable customers and why? Why do some visitors abandon their shopping carts? For companies with brick-and-mortar or catalog operations, how do online sales relate to sales from other channels?

Since Web page servers usually generate clickstream data and commerce servers generate encrypted sales transaction data, it is difficult to determine how Web site content affects sales. Even more complicated is the ability to compare online sales data with sales from brick-and-mortar stores, because the data often are stored in different systems and formats. The solution is an integrated sales and lead generation management software tool that can store and analyze all the data, from Web traffic and customer personality to banner ad responses and purchasing trends.

The first component of such a software tool is collection. In its January 2000 report, "Delivering Net Insight," the Yankee Group said collection involves gathering the click stream of the online customer through log files, Web server plug-ins, network collectors and application monitors. This enables an e-commerce company to build customer profiles easily because the information is more comprehensive.

The second component is aggregation, which consists of transferring data from various sources, processing it into meaningful information, then storing it efficiently. This is particularly valuable for information, then storing it companies that have both print and online advertising campaigns as well as companies that fulfill print catalog requests via their Web sites. For companies with multiple sales channels, this process often entails taking encrypted sales transaction data from a commerce server, converting it and loading it into a database that houses click stream data.

The final component of a sales and lead generation management tool is analysis. The Yankee Group said that this "provides the experiential and behavioral perspectives to obtain a comprehensive understanding of customers." This allows online marketers to develop more effective campaigns such as customer loyalty programs as well as to better measure the return of investment of an online advertising campaign.

To reiterate the old expression "It's a dog-eat-dog world out there," the Internet has created a fiercely competitive sales medium. With the right online sales management tool, e-businesses can obtain a high level of intelligence and insight about their customers and entice those customers to keep coming back.

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