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2007 April - MarketingRev - Tech News for Marketers

Archive for April, 2007

April 30th

Baynote Announces Community Driven eCommerce Solution

Christopher Kenton

Baynote caught my eye at the Web2.0 conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. They weren’t in a typical exhibit booth with screaming graphics and clever tchotchkies. They were at a small stand-up table in a mosh-pit of other companies doing speed pitches to the constant stream of attendees walking through. But they stood out because they do something different and highly compelling. They continuously analyze traffic patterns on a Web site’s pages in order to dynamically optimize search engine results, navigation and content. In essence, they leverage the actual behavior of the crowd to dynamically shape what gets served up to subsequent visitors, rather than relying on the experts or editors to manually determine content. They’ve been proving their value on sites ranging from Interwoven’s enterprise knowledge base to Intuit’s mission critical TurboTax web application.

Today Baynote is announcing a new addition to their product line, a solution they’re calling Community-Guided eCommerce, which leverages their analytics-to-optimization capabilities to serve up product and content recommendations. Like their other hosted solutions, the new application works behind the scenes to analyze about 20 heuristics that provide a clear picture of user behavior and decision-making–not only what links buyers click on, but more hidden behaviors like where the mouse tracks on a page. The stream of analytics among hundreds or thousands of users allows Baynote to determine, for example,

  • what keywords a user entered to find a particular product
  • what competing products they considered before deciding on a purchase
  • what attributes or options they considered
  • what accessories or add-ons they considered 

Baynote’s Community-Guided eCommerce then uses this data to dynamically generate landing pages that leverage proven search engine keywords, and to provide product recommendations and affinity product links to new users coming into the site. If you’re shopping, for example, for a camera, you might be served up a page that shows that among 2500 people who shopped for the same camera, these were the competing cameras considered, this is the camera most purchased, and these are the accessories most considered or purchased along with their camera. And again, it’s all happening dynamically.

I spoke with Jack Jia, founder and CEO of Baynote, for an hour last week about Baynote’s technology and market outlook. His vision is to change the way content is served up on the Web to more effectively guide users to content they want. User-generated recommendations, popularized by sites like Amazon, represented a great step forward, but they’ve also revealed a lot of challenges. When recommendations are offered voluntarily by users, you don’t really know the motivations behind a recommendation, much less if the recommendation is representative of most users. In most cases, only 1% of a site’s users post any content, and what drives them to post may range from true enthusiasm to a vested but concealed interest in the reviewed product. Jia is more interested in what he calls “the wisdom of the silent majority”–insights gained from what users actions rather than their words.

Baynote’s new Community-Guided eCommerce solution leverages this wisdom of the silent majority to offer a number of useful features and insights to eCommerce sites, which Jia says has increased revenue on customer sites up to 20%. Those features include:

  • Peer-driven Recommendations, which automatically detect shopper segments and serve up product recommendations based on peer group purchasing behavior
  • Seasonality and Fad Detection, which shows shifts in consumer interest and automatically adjusts product recommendations,
  • Product Gap Detection, which identifies products that shoppers are looking for but are not currently offered, 
  • Dynamic Landing Page Optimization, which displays visitor-specific product recommendations based on incoming search-engine traffic
  • Implicit Folksonomy, which utilizes searching, browsing, and purchase behavior to automatically tag all products on the site to increase traffic
  • Built-in A/B Measurement,  which automatically performs visitor split testing 

As a hosted application, Community-Guided eCommerce can be added to any eCommerce site, and it’s being priced on both a subscription and gain-sharing model. Baynote just received nearly $11M in Series B funding from Disney this month, and they’re lining up Class A customers like Motorola, Intuit and Fannie Mae. Based on their technology, vision, backing, and the impact of their products on revenue, I’d expect them to be a worthwhile investment and not a flash in the pan. I do think they may need to come up with a snappier name for the product, though. Community-Guided eCommerce is descriptive, but doesn’t exactly roll off the keyboard. :)

Category: Analytics, consumer content | 7 Comments »

April 27th

Moving Corporate Events into Virtual Reality

Christopher Kenton

In the shadow of the tremendous media hype over SecondLife–the popular virtual world where users can escape to a life of their own design–many businesses have been trying to figure out how this might impact real world commerce. A number of real world companies have jumped on the bandwagon by launching their brands in virtual worlds like SecondLife, and there have even been some real world products launched there. But while virtual worlds like SecondLife are fascinating, fun, and a tantalizing taste of how we might interact across time and space in the future without constantly moving human biological mass around the globe, they present a number of challenges for conducting real world business. There is a learning curve for navigating SecondLife, for example–you have to create an avatar, learn how navigate, and find your way through a universe of shiny distractions.  And many of those distractions are, well, a little shocking for neophytes. Imagine holding your next business meeting in a conference room overlooking a raunchy red-light district where people are walking around in animal costumes.

A few companies are addressing these opportunities and challenges by launching virtual business worlds. It started with Webinars and Web conferences, which morphed into virtual events, and now virtual conference centers where businesses can conduct online virtual face-to-face meetings and events, without the learning curve or dubious distractions that come with the entertainment variety of virtual worlds.  One of these companies, Unisfair, has just launched an enterprise class virtual event solution that allows businesses to create their own virtual worlds, where they can host both real-time and on-demand events. Another competitor in this growing space, InXPo, hosts their own virtual events for media companies, corporations and associations.

The advantages of virtual conferences for users is the ability to engage in an immersive environment with experts and peers, without the inconvenice or cost of travel. For event hosts, there is a significant reduction in the cost of the event, while at the same time increasing the potential engagement of the event by extending the availability of conference materials for much longer than the typical 3-day event. There’s little to suggest that virtual events will replace real events any time soon, but as an augmentation of existing events, an addition to bridge the time between events, or a new event for companies that currently don’t have the means to launch a real world event, these solutions hold tremendous promise.

So far, these business virtual worlds are largely mirror replications of the typical conference environment, with exhibit halls and booths, and screaming graphics and banners. Maybe with a little freedom and imagination they can reinvent the event experience online, and point the way to a better real-world experience as well. Having just navigated the gauntlet of the AdTech exhibit hall, I’d be happy to see some new ideas for staging real events.

Category: virtual events | No Comments »

April 17th

Web 2.0 Expo, On the Exhibit Floor

Christopher Kenton

I went to O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Expo at San Francisco’s Moscone Center today to check out one of the most important hubs of the whole social media phenomena. It was interesting, in some ways tremendously exciting, but also a little disappointing. A really mixed bag, for reasons I’ll explain. First, let me lay down the disclaimer that although I’ve spent a lot of time on the technology side, my frame of reference today is really more about marketing- -or, more precisely, bridging the gap between marketing and technology. The things that excited me today were seeing a lot of companies developing cool applications and services to leverage the power of technology to solve marketing problems. I’m going to profile a few of these companies during the remainder of the week, but I’ll quickly call out Baynote, CoreSpeed, Userplane and Unisfair.


The classic “Here. You Want My Card?” sales approach.

Baynote provides a content optimizing tool that watches how users access content on your site, and dynamically tweaks search engine results and navigation to serve up the most relevant content. Simple concept, great results. CoreSpeed provides a platform of modular applications that enable companies to build customer communities and optimize company-to-customer relationships around marketing, sales and support. Straightforward concepts, lots of power and flexibility. Userplane provides a platform for live communities, with video, audio and chat interaction. Unisfair provides a virtual reality for conferences, seminars and exhibits. Think of a SecondLife business universe without the gambling and porn. Sorry.

These were a few standout companies for me in a small sea dominated by ubiquitous fish like Google and Yahoo, who really gave off the impression that they were just there to be there. Yawn. Amazon at least showed some very interesting insights into how they envision the future of Web services and their impact on Web commerce. Much of the rest of the field was overwhelmed by far too many “me too” applications companies and social networking sites obviously chasing venture funds. That was the disappointing part. I can’t count the number of “online collaboration” companies, or “user generated content advertising networks”. It was shades of 1999, with eye-popping brands dressing up flimsy business models. For all the loud play that Web 2.0 is getting, I had hoped to see a lot more robust imagineering.

One side note that was interesting to me was seeing how much geeky engineering has embraced the business mindset. This is, after all, an O’Reilly show, primarily targeting the geek audience. But the focus on business applications and objectives–even the predominance of well dressed engineers, really brings home how much IT has integrated with the general business audience. But it also highlights how little ground marketing has covered in addressing and embracing that audience. Less than a third of the show’s exhibitors were really addressing a marketing audience, despite the dominant implications of Web 2.0 technologies for corporate marketing.

I came home with a stack of data sheets that I’m pouring through to try and find the gold nuggets. Unisfair is making an announcement tomorrow that I’ll cover here. It looks like there are at least a few standouts that will be worth it for marketers to get to know.

Category: social media | 6 Comments »

April 3rd

Technical Problems Rock WebSideStory

Christopher Kenton

WebSideStory, one of the Web’s leading site analytics providers, has been hammered over the past two days by technical problems that have shut down both the public corporate site and the hosted application servers. Customers trying to access the popular HitBox analytics service  have found the servers down, including all reports as well as online customer support. Apparently calls into the telephone support line haven’t fared any better.

As of Tuesday evening, the application server is nominally back online, but the navigation and login appear corrupted. A notice on the site states that problems have persisted for more than 18 hours, and two days worth of reports will not be delivered. It’s unclear whether that means “never” or just not immediately. If that sounds trivial, consider the case of a friend who first reported the problem to me. They just launched the first major product release for their company and gained press attention in some of the leading media channels. A big day for marketing. When they go to measure the impact of their campaign, sorry, site is down and we can’t tell you if you’ll ever get your data. Not good.

 I’ve got a call in to WebsideStory to see if there are any more details available.  

System issues 2007 Apr 2-
2007 Apr 3 Tue 1435 PDT - Since Apr 2 Mon ~0700 PDT we are experiencing system issues. All presentation interfaces were slow and occasionally unavailable until ~1245 PDT today. The corporate web site and support portal were slow and occasionally unavailable until ~1400 PDT today. Most scheduled reports were not delivered yesterday and none will be delivered today. There are several remaining issues: Report scheduling services are not available. Session (global and active segment) data processing is currently 30 hours behind, so scheduled reports may not be delivered tomorrow. We deeply apologize for this disruption. WebSideStory takes uptime very seriously, and we are in the process of further upgrading our core systems to reduce the chance of any such occurrence in the future. We are carefully monitoring all systems and will update this advisory when further status is available.

Category: Analytics | 4 Comments »

April 2nd

DoubleClick the Focus of War Over Control of Web Ads

Christopher Kenton

Google has entered the bidding war over DoubleClick, the Internet’s reigning broker of graphical advertising,  elbowing Microsoft in the ribs and pushing the bidding war to a reported $2 Billion. That’s a lot more than Google paid for YouTube, but DoubleClick has actual revenue.

As many Wall Street analysts are pointing out, Microsoft can ill afford to lose the bid for Doubleclick–it’s their best remaining shot at keeping a strong position on the Web. If Google gains DoubleClick, they’ll add control of the largest flow of graphical advertising to their current position as king of text advertising. Microsoft’s only remaining play–since no one believes they can build a competitive advertising network with their own resources–would be Yahoo!, which would make $2B for DoubleClick look like an insane bargain.

Any way you slice it, a lot of money and energy is flowing into online advertising. That competition is leading to a lot more study and insight into the real impact of Web-based advertising on purchase behavior, and more advanced functionality for targetting effective ads. In fact, [tag]DoubleClick[/tag] has a decent knowledge center on its own site, with various research reports and white papers documenting the role of advertising in the purchase process.  The research is certainly partisan, so read it all with a grain of salt. But there’s some worthwhile material for gaining a perspective on the current trends and spin shaping the online ad space.

Category: Advertising | No Comments »