iHello.com Lets Marketers Talk Via WebTechnology can add voice-enabled URL to opt-in e-mail campaig

Direct marketers and advertisers looking to upgrade their Internet marketing campaigns and capture their target audience more effectively now can speak directly to their customer base using voice-enabled technology.

iHello.com, a Web solutions provider, implements voice capabilities into companies’ e-mail marketing campaigns, banner ads and overall Web communications in an effort to reduce customer acquisition costs and increase click-through rates.

JobsOnline.com, Houston, ran a test campaign about a month ago, said John Canfield, vice president of marketing at iHello. JobsOnline launched two opt-in e-mail creatives, one with voice messaging and the other without. The voice-enabled campaign scored double that of the campaign without voice in click-through and conversion rate percentage, he said.

iHello, Mountain View, CA, offers voice capabilities via two product lines – Voice Marketing and Voice Enable. The former allows companies to add a voice-enabled URL to opt-in e-mail campaigns. Once the user clicks on the link, a voice message delivers a direct call-to-action. The Voice Enable product lets companies improve their Web site functionality by adding voice to a variety of Web communications, such as banner ads, message boards and instant messaging.

“The technology allows companies to add voice and audio to their campaigns to get higher response rates,” Canfield said. “By adding voice to communication features, it also adds more viral effect and stickiness to a Web site.”

iHello also allows companies to record and visitors to retrieve voice messages through a telephone. In lieu of a computer microphone, Canfield said, companies can record their audio campaigns directly over the telephone. Similarly, users can call a toll-free number, enter a personal message code, and not only retrieve messages via the telephone but also record messages of their own, he said.

Founded in February 1999, iHello started as a unified messaging provider to consumers, Canfield said. After using voice technologies in some of its campaigns, however, iHello shifted its vision to business-to-business and began providing voice-enabled services in January.

“We saw a much greater opportunity in not only being able to help companies manage voice and audio messages on their inbox,” he said, “but basically allowing all forms of Web communications to have voice in it.”

The company has signed five clients and has managed single campaigns for a half-dozen others, Canfield said. eWanted.com, Santa Clara, CA, a reverse auction Web site where sellers bid for customers’ business, has been a client for three months and has run two voice-enabled campaigns in that time. The company recorded click-through rates of more than 30 percent using iHello’s audio services, up from an average 5 percent to 10 percent in eWanted’s other campaigns, said Afshin Youssefyeh, director of online relationships at eWanted. Moreover, about one-third of visitors were converted into buyers.

Youssefyeh thinks voice technology adds an effective dimension to Internet marketing, one that delivers the message to customers in a way they want to receive it.

“Some people are visual, and the Web has been mostly a visual medium,” he said.

iHello also recently struck a large deal to provide voice technology to an undisclosed company. The deal is expected to be announced in the next week or two, Canfield said.

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