eWallet Campaign Nets 250,000 Shoppers

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More than 250,000 consumers downloaded eWallet's Internet shopping software during a launch campaign that ended this month, and the company said consumer acceptance of the product was faster than that of other similar products.

Available for free download at www.ewallet.com, eWallet allows consumers to store their shipping and credit card information on their PCs so they can make online purchases with a single click. The software works at any e-commerce site and is free to consumers and merchants. The company plans to make money by selling sponsorships and premium placement on a search tool that is part of eWallet.

While making people download software is usually a recipe for failure in general consumer marketing on the Internet, the idea of storing credit card information on their PCs is apparently enough of a value proposition to overcome consumers' aversions.

"People like having [their credit card information] where there's some element of physical security," said Francis Costello, chief operating officer at eWallet, San Diego. "We realize downloading is a barrier, but we believe that the consumers want to control their own data," he said.

The software is about one megabyte and takes from 15 to 18 minutes to download on a 28.8 modem. After downloading eWallet, consumers type in their credit card and shipping information once and encrypt it on their PCs with a four-digit personal identification number. When they reach the checkout screen at an e-commerce site, they click on the eWallet icon, enter their PIN, choose a credit card from the ones they entered, and click and drag it over to the form. The credit card and shipping information is then added by eWallet automatically. Once consumers hit the "Submit" button, the transaction is complete.

The launch campaign for eWallet began Nov. 25 -- the Wednesday before Thanksgiving -- and peaked during the week of Dec. 13 with 10 million impressions a day on media site Yahoo alone.

The company tested more than 20 creative approaches. But a simple two-panel banner with the headline "Type in your name and address ONCE for the rest of your life" on the first panel and "Free Download, Click Here" on the second panel outpulled the others by far with a 2 percent click-through rate, Costello said.

He declined to say what percentage of those who clicked through the banners downloaded the software. "There is a lot of interesting behavior with software downloads … that makes it hard to characterize [banner conversion rates] effectively with numbers," he said.

For example, a significant number of people came to the site, clicked away and then came back days later to download the software.

However, the words "Free Download" drove same-day conversion rates up, he said, noting that people who clicked through the banner were probably less surprised when they arrived at a Web page requiring them to download software than those who clicked through banners with no reference to the download.

Costello declined to give company audience projections or say when the next eWallet campaign will begin. "Our [download] goal is in the several millions for the year."

The parent company of eWallet is Internet incubator idealab!, whose other companies include local information service CitySearch, search engine GoTo.com and online retailer eToys.

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