Service Provides Customer Profiles to Internet Merchants

Share this article: Inc. will inaugurate a Web personalization service this summer that allows customers to provide their profiles to retailers' Web sites as well as modify the information.

"ECustomers helps merchants recognize and respond to their customers' individual interests and preferences," said Ed Hinde, vice president of consumer marketing at the Austin, TX, start-up. "This responsiveness builds long-term satisfaction and ultimately contributes to brand equity and revenue."

When a customer enters the site of a participating retailer, information about the customer is transmitted to the merchant. While not revealing the customer's identity, the service conveys the customer details to the Web site.

The eCustomers service uses CyberClusters, which are building blocks of demographic and lifestyle information. The data is segmented and divided into attributes, including age range, reported education and region of residence. A merchant uses a nonpersonally identifiable derivative of this information to tailor the site to the customer's needs.

Customers can edit, add or delete information in their profile. They also can opt out from the online retailer's database or permanently erase their data from that site's records.

Besides large online retailers, targets for the service include online marketers in financial services, automotive and travel. ECustomers would not disclose the names of online marketers with whom it is negotiating.

The company will gain revenue from transaction fees collected each time a customer makes a purchase on an online retailer's page through the eCustomers site.

ECustomers last month announced it had received a second-round investment of more than $18 million, which will help the company expand to Europe, its first international market. The investors included Voyager Capital and TVM Techno Venture Management.

Analysts estimate that the Web personalization market worldwide will cross $22 billion by 2004, fueled by the growing number of online retailers who seek to engender customer loyalty and differentiate their offerings in an intensely competitive Internet market.

"ECustomers wants to make the online experience equal to or better than the best on-land shopping experience," said Richard Primeaux, the company's vice president of corporate marketing.
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