PRODUCT PROFILE

LivePerson Launches Hosted Sales Edition

Application service providerLivePerson, maker of CRM online chat and self-service tools, has announced the release of its Sales Edition, designed to allow salespeople to interact with potential customers as they browse Web sites.

The company is pinning its hopes on being one of the first to release asales force automation (SFA) tool that engages customers in real-time,thereby creating a new niche.

“I think it’s where the growth opportunities are for the company,”senior vice president of product strategy Tony Pante told CRM Buyer Magazine.”There are lots of competitors on the service side, but on the sellside, there are not many.”

More Sales, Bigger Sales

According to Pante, the analytics features of the application allowsalespeople to engage the most likely buyers as they visit a company’sWeb site in order to close sales and upsell products. LivePerson said the application has been adopted by such customers as TechnoBrandsand MyFamily.com.

The TechnoBrands Web site, TechnoScout.com, which sells a range of consumer electronics and household goods, currently generates 47 percent of its sales using the new tool, according to LivePerson. The software makersaid that orders placed using the proactive chat tool have a ticket price approximately 25 percent higher than orders placed without chat.

Personalization with a Twist

LivePerson said the software captures a customer’s actions, includingWeb pages visited and the amount of time spent viewing each page — functionality similar to that of many CRM packages with personalization features. However, the chat function also provides a channel that lets representatives engage high-potential customers in an online sales consultation during their visit.

The software alerts a salesperson when a customer who fits aparticular set of characteristics enters the site. As the customer progressesthrough the site, the application analyzes page visits, purchasepatterns, shopping cart content and other activity.

A sales representative then can proactively engage a customer in real-time tosell additional products and services, mirroring the interactions onewould have with a sales agent in a store or office. Those interactionsmight consist of a coupon for a specific product, assistance on productselection or an offer to chat with a service representative.

ASPs Gaining Ground

The software, hosted as an application service, is priced at US$10,000 permonth for up to 10 users and is now generally available, following about sixmonths of beta testing. TheASP model is gaining credibility with enterprises, although some customers — eBay, for example — want to host the application on their own hardware at first. They eventually come around, according to Pante. “EBay decided to try the ASP model as a pilot, and decided to stick with it because we met their stability requirements,” he said.

As competitor Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff told CRM Buyer, the total cost of ownership of a CRM application through an ASP can be much lower than purchasing an enterprise package.

Aberdeen Group research director Guy Creese echoed that idea, telling CRM Buyer that the down economy is helping to make ASPs a more attractive financial option forcompanies because monthly fees can be included in a company’soperating budget instead of counted as a capital expenditure.

Pante added that ASPs make implementing new software releases — thebane of many IT directors’ lives — much easier as well.”We come out with new releases and features at least three times ayear,” he said. “It’s hard to do that with an enterprise package.”

Privacy, Please

Most tools that use personalization and tracking features raise privacyconcerns, and LivePerson’s new release is no exception. Pante said his company urges its customers to ensure that salespeople comply withexisting privacy policies when using the tool. If an enterprisedoes not have a privacy policy in place, he said, LivePerson encouragesit to develop one.

“This is similar to interacting with a salesperson in a store,” heexplained. “In can be aggravating or helpful. We encourage ourcustomers to make sure that they’re helping people.”

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