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Be Free Looks to Expand Into Personalization Arena

Be Free Inc. is expected today to announce BSelect Onsite, a hosted real-time personalization service that will enable clients to identify and respond to the needs of Web site visitors with targeted products and offers.

Be Free, which made its name as an affiliate marketing provider, is entering a field of more than 30 companies that claim to offer personalization technology as part of their portfolios. Some of the more established companies include Net Perceptions, Art Technology Group, BroadVision and E.piphany.

The demand for personalization has attracted a lot of competitors, said Steve Larsen, senior vice president at Net Perceptions Inc., Minneapolis. “That's what people are asking for,” he said. “It's a hot area because businesses are realizing that old segmentation marketing is dead and future success will depend on one's ability to understand and serve the needs of each individual customer.”

The BSelect technology tracks purchasing behavior and click stream data using cookies. It builds an anonymous profile to serve information in which it thinks the visitor will most likely be interested. Client companies can view real-time reports of Web site traffic and personalization performance.

“The product allows merchants to recommend the right goods to consumers when they arrive on the merchant's Web site, based on users' unique viewing, clicking and buying behavior,” said Thomas Gerace, founder and chief marketing officer at Be Free Inc., Marlborough, MA.

This is a big step for a company that got its start by helping companies build their affiliate marketing programs. Affiliate programs include banners, buttons, text links, feature windows and store fronts that are placed on affiliate members' sites. The sites earn a small commission every time a user clicks on the ad. Be Free's main competitors in the affiliate marketing field include Commission Junction and LinkShare.

Be Free has been tracking consumers within its affiliate network and plans to leverage its database of viewing, clicking and purchasing information. It tracked 2.9 billion impressions on its affiliate sites in the first quarter.

BSelect came about as a result of Be Free's acquisition of TriVida Corp. and its optimal analysis engine in February. Using this technology, Be Free claims it can build personalization into direct e-mail, customer service e-mail, performance-based banner campaigns, mobile devices, shopping bots, gift registries and other marketing vehicles.

It plans to expand its personalization offerings by launching BSelect API this summer and BSelect Channel this fall. BSelect API will allow for personalization by content and banner advertising networks. BSelect Channel will allow for personalization in marketing channels at Be Free affiliate sites. “We're expanding into other areas. We want to be an infrastructure that everyone plugs into for personalization,” said Gerace.

Be Free is avoiding the consumer privacy hot button by allowing users to opt out as well as to tweak their profiles. Within each affiliate member's and client company's privacy policy is a link to Yourcontrolpanel.com, where users can change their information or opt out.

The company has 360 customers, including AOL, IBM and Barnes & Noble, and more than 3.5 million affiliate relationships.

BSelect has a one-time implementation fee of $5,000 and recurring fees of 15 cents per click or $5,000 per month. Be Free can add its hosted technology to a site within hours.

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