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EvolutionB M39

EvolutionB M39

There Goes the E-Neighborhood
Browse the Web, or nearly every business or financial publication, and you'll see that e-commerce is no longer just a great idea. It's everywhere. Sales over the Web are in the trillions of dollars. Books (amazon.com), cars (iMotors.com), groceries (HomeGrocer.com) - you name it. Almost anything that retails in a store is on sale now at somebody's Web site. And why not? Doing business over the Web solves many customer- and company-related problems associated with shopping at a store's physical location (inventory, product availability, hours of operation, to list a few). However, challenges remain.

Arguably, two of the biggest challenges still facing businesses are ac-quiring new customers and keeping existing customers. In Q4/2000 EvolutionB will provide an Allaire Spectra-powered solution to succeed in meeting those challenges. Code-named M39 (see Figure 1), EvolutionB defines the product as an Internet Relationship Management (IRM) solution. M39 is designed to strengthen customer-company relationships by building customer loyalty and delivering dynamic personalized content.

M39 enables business and marketing managers to better profile their customer base and the reasons they buy the products and services they do. This increased understanding allows managers to optimize marketing strategies to attract new customers as well as customize existing customers' online experiences to generate further sales. M39 is also designed to allow customer service representatives (CSRs) to assist customers with requests for information quickly and more accurately. Let's take a closer look.

Some Background
M39's functionality is provided by way of Spectra. Spectra is Allaire Corporation's packaged system solution for content management, e-commerce, and personalization. Spectra leverages the capabilities of ColdFuson to enable companies to reduce time-to-market requirements in de-livering enterprise-level Web sites, intranets, and extranets. The Spectra design is twofold: transactive content and spectrum of participants that Forrester Research Group defines as "active, intelligent multimedia information delivered and composed on demand." In other words, managed content, displayed in a personalized and dynamic way.

The spectrum-of-participants de-sign concept provides a model and methodology by which an organization can scale its Web presence to its employees, business partners, and customers. The spectrum of participants encompasses all the different types of users involved with a system. From the lower-level programming of system administrators and developers to the higher end of business managers, customers, and site affiliates, Spectra features interfaces or services to accommodate the needs of each level of user.

How M39 Works
M39's architecture is fairly straightforward. As you can see in Figure 2, it extends from the content management and personalization capabilities of Spectra, which leverages the ColdFusion application serving environment, which is tied to a Web server and NT or Solaris operating system. On the back end, M39 taps Spectra's ContentObject API (COAPI). Spectra's Webtop (the front-end user interface) enables business users, customer service representatives, and customers alike to utilize the application.

The system's functionality is based on what EvolutionB calls the Customer Relationship Life Cycle. This life cycle encompasses the evolution (sorry, I just had to) of an online consumer from casual browser to the stage of making a purchase and thereby becoming a customer who may later request product support. The cycle continues as company marketing departments and customer support centers utilize detailed information that M39 gathers about individual customers. This information is stored in the Customer Knowledge Repository, which is made available to marketing and support personnel throughout the company.

E-Customer Marketing
Marketing departments can use customer profiles from a knowledge base to launch niche marketing campaigns. Whether shoppers are just browsing or actually making a purchase, M39 gathers detailed information about their activities. M39's transactive logging provides data for analyzing customer behaviors and modifying marketing strat-egies accordingly.

M39's marketing module utilizes a campaign set, containers and articles, and an intelligence engine. The campaign set contains one or more campaigns, each of which has an associated audience that is most receptive to the campaign. Each campaign and its associated articles can be displayed in any number of containers using configurable publishing rules. A container is a rectangular portion of a Web page dedicated to specific placement of marketing material. A good example of a container is a rectangle, 468 pixels wide by 60 pixels high, located at the top of a page for banner ads. Articles are graphics, text, or other media inserted into the containers.

The intelligence engine controls which articles are placed in which containers. The engine weighs user profile, marketing campaign input, and personal preferences to generate a custom page. The page will be filled with articles that attempt to match the interests of the customer and the essence of the marketing campaign.

E-Customer Service
The customer service module gives CSRs the power to more quickly and efficiently help customers once they've made a purchase. For example, when an inbound support request arrives, say, by a customer submitting an online form or sending e-mail, M39 applies it to a number of service rules (which you can create and modify). One such rule determines if the request is related to an existing incident. If so, the originating support request and its threaded history are attached to it, along with the customer's profile, for the benefit of the CSR.

Other rules apply metadata keyword searches. These searches allow a number of intelligent operations to happen. The request can be classified according to a hierarchical structure such as Books>Internet> E-Commerce>Software. M39 can then forward the request to the CSR with the most experience in that area. The keywords can also be matched against a knowledge base that can provide the requesting user with related articles that may meet the needs of his or her request.

EvolutionB's M39 is designed to enable a Web site's business users to better attract new customers, build loyalty among and offer further buying opportunities to existing customers, and improve customer support accuracy and response times. M39 provides marketing, and service modules to complete the core content management, commerce, and personalization solution offered by Allaire's ColdFusion- based Spectra platform. Pricing was unavailable when this article was written. You can learn more about M39 and even apply to be a participant in its beta program by visiting www.evolutionb.com/m39.

More Stories By Jerry Bradenbaugh

Jerry Bradenbaugh works as a senior Web developer for Red Oak Technologies, Inc. (www.redoaktech.com). He focuses on robust Web-enabled systems using JavaScript, ColdFusion, Java and database technologies. He is also
the Webmaster of HotSyte - The JavaScript Resource
(www.serve.com/hotsyte) and is currently writing a JavaScript book for O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.

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