TheMan.com Gets Some Questions Answered

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TheMan.com has turned the question and answer section, one of the least productive and most overlooked sections of a Web site, into a forum where it can communicate with customers, build a database of e-mail names and provide special offers.


TheMan.com, a retail site for socially active, time-constrained men ages 25 to 44, recently launched its "Man of Style" channel complete with an interactive Q&A section, http://asktheexpert.theman.com/themanofstyle .


The section allows consumers to ask experts a variety of questions about dress wear, casual wear and grooming. TheMan's experts quickly respond via e-mail or publish the answers on the site, thus tackling one of the glaring problems with many Q&A sections -- it's difficult to get a decent, timely response to a query.


The site is accomplishing this task using technology provided by Broad Daylight Inc., an application service provider that develops content channels to broadcast intelligent questions and answers on the Web.


Broad Daylight categorizes the questions and sends them to the appropriate expert. In the meantime, the system is collecting data about what consumers are looking for as well as their e-mail addresses. For example, if a consumer asks what width of tie is currently in vogue and then provides his e-mail address, TheMan can follow up with the answer and an offer for the latest line of Ralph Lauren ties.


Hitting consumers who are ripe to buy with the right offer in this manner "is ingenious," said Richard A. Swentek, president of Arlen Communications, a Key Largo, FL-research firm specializing in interactive media. "It's a great mechanism to find out what's in the mind of the consumer and an excellent pre-qualification mechanism to segregate the marketplace for different e-market retailers. In the future you'll find that to be valuable for businesses to survive in e-commerce."


Typically, sites post a frequently asked question to deal with consumers' questions in the "least painful way," said Stephen Difranco, vice president of marketing for Broad Daylight, Santa Clara, CA. "Most sites don't realize their Q&A section can be a very effective way to market and promote the personality of the site. This is a chance to grab an e-mail address, answer their question and brand and bond with the visitor."


The direct marketing and targeting applications are plentiful, according to Difranco. "They can send a graphic postcard with contextual merchandising or advertising. They can provide the opportunity to click to other parts of the sites. Or they could also include a send-to-a-friend button, and then it becomes a viral experience."


Broad Daylight plans to include rich media e-mail applications in the future. Consumers will get the answer to their style question and be able to buy a relevant product without leaving their e-mail box.


Broad Daylight has worked with a number of sites including the McCain2000.com site. During the 90 days the site was up, the system served up 300,000 answers to voters' questions. From this, McCain's staff gleaned 5,000 unique e-mail addresses.
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