New Internet Measuring Network ComScore

It's not about eyeballs anymore; it's about measuring the activities and the types of purchases Internet users are making. That's what newcomer comScore Networks, Reston, VA, says it can do with its emergence onto the Internet scene.

The 1-year-old company wants to provide marketers with in-depth consumer online purchasing information through a panel of more than 1 million people. ComScore expects to have 2 million panelists by the end of the year.

Magid M. Abraham, comScore's president/CEO, said clients will be able to obtain an “intimate understanding” of customers' Internet activities across all sites, including what they purchase, how often they buy, at what price and from whom they purchase. For direct marketers, this information could increase the probability of hitting target customers.

The incentives comScore offers Internet users to monitor their online behavior are faster downloads of Web pages and a variety of sweepstakes offers, which include winning a new car. The traditional method of paying panelists to track their computer usage has often been too costly and has resulted in low participation, Abraham said.

ComScore gathers information by using a patent-pending technology that allows the company to install software into the user's computer. This reroutes Internet activity to its server. ComScore can view behavior and what is being purchased while protecting the user's privacy. This method gives the company the ability to monitor conversion rates and average order sizes, Abraham said.

One of the main advantages comScore claims it has over other Web traffic measurement fixtures, such as Media Metrix and Nielsen//NetRatings, is that it can tell what happens during a secured transaction. ComScore says it not only can tell that the transaction was completed, but also can identify what was purchased.

ComScore said it has 15 companies on its client list. They include, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Nabisco and Kraft Foods.

“Typically 40 percent of shopping carts are abandoned — even when you take the last step [and] get to the checkout,” Abraham said. “It's like counting people when they step out of the voting booth. You don't know if they voted Republican or Democrat or if they voted at all.”

The majority of panelists go online from home, with just 100,000 participants going online at work. Abraham said the company wants to increase participation by those connecting at work.

Critics of Media Metrix and Nielsen//NetRatings have said their panels are too small, resulting in unreliable readings.

Nielsen//NetRatings, Milpitas, CA, has about 165,000 panelists in the United States and internationally. While the company tracks Internet activity, it does not track completed online purchases. However, this is an area that NetRatings could consider in the future, said Jennifer Fan, spokeswoman at NetRatings Inc.

Abraham said comScore is not a ratings company like Media Metrix and Nielsen//NetRatings, nor will it compete with them. ComScore, however, does run the risk of being compared with the two. The company sees itself as an Internet infrastructure company that provides fuel for a broad range of applications, Abraham said.

“The network provides marketers with a true analysis of consumer behavior,” he said. This will give them a better understanding of how competitors are doing and what can be done to develop peak performance solutions to better meet customers' needs.

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