Web Site Helps Surfers Find Bricks-and-Mortar Locations

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MapInfo Corp., a business-to-business software development Web site, launched a mapping service this week to help clients bring Web site visitors into their bricks-and-mortar locations.

Dubbed miSites, the service enables clients, including retailers, restaurants, health clubs and car dealers, to provide their physical locations to Web visitors. The service prompts Web visitors for their street address, city, state and ZIP code and then provides a map marking the company's physical location and its address, phone number and store hours.

"If you're a company that has five locations and I live in Albany, NY, it can show me the closest locations within a 50-mile radius. We had a lot of clients coming up on our site and looking for those sorts of services, which we didn't previously offer, but we do now because we know that our customers do want those things," said Kim Seabury, manager of Web operations at MapInfo, Troy, NY.

Registration is free to MapInfo customers who fill out a form to receive a "passport" that enables them to buy and download software on a per product basis.

MapInfo enables clients to use geographic information combined with demographics, lifestyle and buying behavior to better understand their customers. The company's more than 500,000 clients include telecommunications giants Sprint and AT&T, which use the company's software for forecasting demand and increasing customer retention, and the FBI and New York Police Department, which use it for emergency response and municipal planning.

MapInfo plans to enhance miSites with miDirections later this month with a service that will provide clients' customers with directions to their places of business.

MapInfo uses NetGenesis, Cambridge, MA, to track site activity, including visitor navigation tracking and the most popular pages visited, and plans to relaunch its Web site with information gathered from the Web reporting company.

While MapInfo's site navigation is "pretty good," Seabury said, the company plans to enhance it, especially on the areas of the site that experience a lot of traffic. "We find that people typically are more interested in our free area on our site," said Seabury. The free area offers downloadable whitepapers, support files and product demos. The software section is another commonly visited area of mapinfo.com, said Seabury.

Meanwhile, MapInfo's online press center is less commonly visited than the company had anticipated. The press center offers company press releases, information about its consulting services and a page that posts jobs openings at the company.

MapInfo. also plans to improve search capabilities so that, in addition to standard keyword searching, customers will be able to search for meta information, or behind-the-scenes code words interpreted by search engines.

Using NetGenesis' services, the 15-year-old company also discovered that it wasn't offering at least one of its products in the format its customers wanted.

"A lot of people don't want to deploy MapMarker on their own Web servers. They would much rather us provide the service via an ASP-model on the Internet, so we are certainly exploring those types of situations," said Seabury.

MapMarker is a geo-coding tool that allows its customers to turn data into pinpoints on a map.

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