WhenU Launches New Tool to Aid Shoppers, Promote Retail Web Sites

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WhenU.com, a consumer-focused software provider, released a new version of its WhenUShop product this month in an effort to help customers better navigate online retail sites during the holiday season.

The company's WhenUShop 2.0 Web tool enables consumers to find a retailer's contact information, shipping costs and coupon offers, among other things, through a tool bar that appears to the left of that retailer's Web site. The product, which also displays an icon in the lower right corner of a user's PC, can be downloaded in about a minute.

"The promise of e-retailing is that it is cheaper, faster, better and more satisfying [than offline retailing]," said Avi Naider, CEO of WhenU, New York. "The reality is that there is a lot of frustration, abandoned shopping carts, and a lot of time spent chasing down information or being hit with surprises at the end.

"We try to cut all that and essentially enable e-commerce to really live up to its promise for users," he added.

WhenUShop, which features more than 350 retail Web sites in categories such as apparel, toys and auto parts, pops up on a user's screen each time he logs on to one of those retail sites. The tool bar disappears when the user leaves the site.

WhenU, which said it is promoting the tool via high-traffic Web sites, marketing agreements and e-mail, added new features to the tool bar in hopes of providing benefits for consumers and potential marketers alike, Naider said. For instance, the company introduced a new "Find a Site" feature, which allows online customers to select an e-commerce site by category, coupon offers and shipping costs, he said.

"So if [a consumer] wants to shop for toys," Naider said, "[he] can not only find the best toy sites, but [WhenUShop] immediately shows you relevant information."

For marketers, meanwhile, the feature would guide consumers who are searching for a particular item directly to their offers.

Naider said the company, which launched the original version of WhenUShop in September, has registered approximately 50,000 users.

However, WhenU does not have agreements with the retail sites, Naider said. Instead, the company independently researches and posts public information from a retailer's Web site and direct mail pieces.

The tool bar, which is free to consumers, also features discounted offers from credit card companies, such as American Express and Diner's Club. WhenU does not have agreements with any of the credit card companies, either, Naider said.

Indeed, WhenUShop is designed to benefit consumers, but it also serves as a free marketing tool for the retail companies listed.

Naider said the credit card companies value the exposure. He said WhenU is negotiating separate deals with undisclosed retail and credit card companies to receive commission in exchange for the exposure and the potential for additional sales generated by WhenUShop. WhenU plans to feature the tool bar as a co-branded platform for companies to feature their deals or incorporate their logos, he said.

"The biggest challenge for direct marketers right now is to get people right when they're at the point of transaction," Naider said. "WhenUShop makes sure, for a direct marketer that has put all this time and energy into negotiating unique deals with a particular deal, that the user never misses the message."

In the meantime, WhenU generates revenue through e-commerce transaction fees from affiliate partners that are featured while customers install the software tool, Naider said. In addition, the company provides space on the product to so-called online service providers, which offer rebate, rewards and Web currency programs, he said.

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