Software Aims to Help Pinpoint Buying Behavior

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At least three firms doing business on the Internet are testing marketing software that its developers said will help pinpoint reasons customers decide to buy and, just as important, help spot key reasons why they decide not to buy.


According to Verbind Inc., Boston, its marketing software LifeTime tracks Web site visitors' behavior and helps map what drives customer transactions.


Online video marketer Reel.com is in the initial stages of integrating LifeTime into its site at www.reel.com aiming to make more relevant product recommendations to customers while they're on the site.


"It seems as though their software is able to make decisions in real time as to what sort buckets consumers fall into," said Caleb Donaldson, program director at Reel.com, Emeryville, CA. "We get more accurate information faster."


Geerlings & Wade, a Boston-based wine direct marketer, has been testing LifeTime offline for about a year as a way to trim the cost of its direct mail efforts. The $34 million company is in the midst of integrating the software into its Web site at www.geerlingsandwade.com.


Huib Geerlings, founder and chief technology officer of Verbind, also was a founder of Geerlings & Wade.


LifeTime is reportedly helping Geerlings & Wade avoid delivering direct mail offers to people in its 250,000-customer house file who are unlikely to respond.


"Certain segments of my house file buy multiple times per year. However, they don't behave the same in terms of what types of wines they like to buy, what times of year they buy and how frequently they buy," said Vince Ficcaglia, vice president of marketing at Geerlings & Wade.


"I need to understand those individual behaviors so when I communicate to a particular customer, I'm going out there with not only a relevant and high-value offer, but it's going out at the right time," he said.


Besides making real-time recommendations on its Web site, Geerlings & Wade's goal for LifeTime software is to cut its mail volume - currently slightly more than 3 million pieces per year - by 10 percent to 15 percent by the end of 1999.


"We've got customers who only buy during our quarterly clearance sales," said Ficcaglia. "I can save a lot of money if I don't send them mail during the other parts of the year when their behavior has shown me they won't buy."


A Fidelity Investments executive confirmed in a prepared statement that he also is testing LifeTime at www.fidelity.com.


LifeTime "offers a valuable approach for understanding individual customer behavior and … effectively addressing core business challenges such as retention and cross-sell," said Sean Belka, senior vice president at Fidelity Interactive.
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