CheckFree Corp. is offering an enhanced version of its system that lets marketers send their customers billing statements in the form of e-mail.
Called WebPay, the system's potential functionalities for recipients include storing and organizing bills in their e-mail boxes rather than filing papers.
A company can include a “pay” HTML link that lets the recipient go to the firm's site and settle the bill electronically. When recipients use this option, their identities are authenticated at the site before the payment is made.
The main business idea behind the system is getting customers to use e-mail to track and pay their bills. This allows marketers to cut back on direct mailing costs and affords them more advertising opportunities.
The system can be used for several marketing applications, according to Bill Zielke, vice president of product marketing at CheckFree, Atlanta. He listed customer acquisition, customer service, brand exposure and increased revenue as potential benefits.
Zielke said e-mail billings can be used as cross-sell opportunities much as some firms use direct mail billings. He said embedded e-mail is not as limited as mail pieces because it can be linked to various points on the Web.
WebPay is being offered with CheckFree's other applications, including its Marketing Direct system. When these two systems are used together, marketers can use the e-mail billings to target offers at large groups of people who have shown similar consumer habits, or they can be targeted on a customer-by-customer basis.
The messages can appear at the top, bottom or side of the e-mail based on Marketing Direct 2.0's template, whose appearance duplicates the physical characteristics of a personal check.
WebPay and Marketing Direct are being targeted at customer management officers at financial services firms such as credit card companies and insurance agents. Telecommunications firm AT&T has begun using the system to collect bills from customers that have expressed interest in making payments online.
Pricing varies greatly according to the company.