NextCard Launches Concierge Comparison Tool to Assist Online Shoppers

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NextCard, an online credit card marketer, earlier this month launched a new browser-based online shopping comparison tool labeled Concierge, which enables consumers to compare prices at 2,600 member e-commerce sites.


"Concierge lives on the consumer desktop and follows consumers around as a browser attachment," said Shripriya Mahesh, director of e-commerce at NextCard, San Francisco.


Because the tool follows the consumer everywhere online, the consumer no longer has to dial up the NextCard Web site to use the company's price comparison services, as was required in the past, Mahesh said.


The first version of Concierge, which launched in May 1999, was limited to filling out online forms and Web site registration. Consumers that already have the pre-existing Concierge can download the new product and have all of their pre-populated registration information automatically transferred over, Mahesh said. She claimed that NextCard consumers who downloaded the previous Concierge version spent 30 percent more online than NextCard cardholders who did not use the service.


According to the company, cardholders without Concierge spend an average of $220 per month online. While Mahesh would not disclose sales goals for the new product, she said that the company expects that consumers will outspend the $280 monthly average spent by users of the older Concierge model.


NextCard this week began alerting its entire customer base to the new Concierge offering through opt-in e-mail alerts and monthly e-mail newsletters. The company is also attaching messages regarding the service to online and offline monthly billing statements during the next two months. Also, consumers can learn about and sign up for the service at the company's customer service Web site, www.my.nextcard.com.


The free Concierge service requires users to register their names and addresses as well as a password to initiate use. When the user information is entered, it is recorded and automatically entered for all purchases through NextCard.


"If [the consumer] downloads at work, the system remembers the sites visited and actions performed, allowing the user to continue at home by typing in their password," Mahesh said.


When consumers click on the Concierge icon, they are presented with four tabs: search, shop, fillform and NextCard.


The search function enables the consumer to search through five partner portals -- Yahoo, AskJeeves, Northern Light, AltaVista and Google -- in order to locate personal investment information. This function also provides the consumer with instant links to selected partner shopping portals, including Amazon.com, PlanetRX.com and Wine.com.


The shop function allows consumers to search for specific merchandise and view price comparison information, product reviews and consumer reviews of merchants.


Consumers who enter sites that require registration can click on the fillform tab to automatically enter their saved NextCard registration information.


The NextCard tab links consumers to the NextCard Web site to view new promotions and discounts.


Concierge provides security alerts that outline the privacy and security policies of each e-commerce site in NextCard's price comparison network.


To prepare for the holiday season, NextCard is including a "holiday low price shopping guarantee" offer with the Concierge service. If consumers find a lower price for selected merchandise online than that located by the Concierge service, NextCard will refund the difference.


NextCard targets its credit card services to college-educated, Internet-savvy consumers in their 20s and early 30s. The company claims to have more than 500,000 NextCard cardholders.

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