IQ News: Choose Me




IChoose alerts e-shoppers to better offers.
It’s a game of one-upmanship as merchants try yet another tactic to win buyers, not browsers. The object of the game: to lure shoppers from rival e-tailers at the point of purchase.
Armed with iChoose technology, merchants deliver better offers directly to online shoppers the instant they commit to a purchase on a comparable site by clicking the “buy” button. The software from Dallas-based iChoose, Inc. searches its database of coupons and exclusive deals and delivers savings on the exact items the customer puts in his shopping cart.
“We’re permission-based marketing on steroids,” says iChoose president Kevin Dahlstrom. “It’s all real time. It’s all at the instant it’s needed.”
Call it cunning, call it sneaky–but it works. Fickle shoppers are being swept away at the promise of a 10 percent discount or cheaper shipping fee.
To sign up for the instant buying advisor, shoppers download the free software at www.ichoose.com or at one of this firm’s distribution partner sites, such as Freeinternet.com, McAfee.com and US West.
Once the software is installed, shoppers proceed with their regular shopping behavior and wait for the deals to come to them. Working with the Web browser, explains Dahlstrom, the software “offers visibility into the product [the shopper] is viewing and buying, sites visited and search queries.”
Unobtrusive, the iChoose savings alert stays behind the scenes and monitors the shopper’s browsing behavior, appearing only at the point of purchase if a deal is to be had. “We’re only there if we have something of value to say,” assures Dahlstrom.
When customers are finished browsing and indicate that they’re ready to buy, an iChoose window appears on their screens. For instance, if an iChoose shopper browses the Stephen King library on a given book e-tailer’s site, drops Misery in his shopping cart and clicks the buy button, an iChoose window may pop up alerting the shopper to a bargain basement deal at one of the vendor’s competitors. The window compares the total price, including shipping and handling, of the current shopping cart to the same basket of goods from the competitor.
In addition, the iChoose software includes consumer ratings provided by BizRate.com, an independent Web site ratings service, for the merchants being compared.
The customer then accepts the competitor’s offer or continues with the original transaction. If the customer accepts the counter offer, the iChoose saving alert transfers the shopping cart items to the competitor’s order page, along with the customer’s information such as name, address and credit card information. IChoose then collects between 3 to 30 percent of the sale generated from the savings alert.
“[IChoose] provides consumers with a choice. They can take it or leave it,” says Dahlstrom, adding that in beta testing, consumers accepted the counter offers more than 50 percent of the time.
So far, dozens of merchants peddling books, music, DVDs, toys, consumer electronics, and computer hardware and software have signed on to try to one-up their competition, says Dahlstrom. The company declines to name any, however, saying the merchants wish to remain anonymous in order to keep their competitive edge.
As the service evolves, iChoose will add new elements, starting with dynamic pricing, or what the company calls “fries with a shake.” This feature enables the iChoose merchant partner to make offers that complement the consumer’s purchase. For instance, if a shopper buys a DVD player, the merchant may offer them a deal on eight DVDs.
Also, iChoose plans to connect consumers to offline merchants, as well. For example, someone shopping for flowers on the Web could receive a better offer from a small corner florist three blocks away. If the consumer accepts the deal, the offline shop could then place a phone call to discuss details with the consumer.
Now in its soft launch with version 1.1 and close to 100,000 consumers, iChoose hopes to unveil version 2.0 in Q3. To encourage shoppers to sign up for the service, iChoose has launched a campaign that consists of online and offline advertising, promotions, viral marketing, public relations and a distribution program.
In addition to distributing the iChoose savings alert on its own and partner Web sites, the company says it has secured deals with three computer manufacturers to load the software on their new machines. However, the service will continue to remain an opt-in one controlled by the consumer.
“You tell us what you want us to track and not track and what kind of offer you want to receive,” explains Dahlstrom. “It’s all about choice.”