While web content like customer reviews can be great for converting shoppers to buyers, as retailers have found, it can be far more effective if combined with other content that’s helpful to a shopper and shown to her at the best place and time, says Garrett Eastham, CEO and co-founder of Compare Metrics.
Brett Hurt, chairman and co-founder of consumer reviews provider Bazaarvoice, agrees and has joined a group of early-stage investors putting $775,000 behind Compare Metrics. “This is going to really shake up the industry, and help retailers in a big way,” says Hurt, who also co-founded web analytics firm Coremetrics, which is now part of IBM Corp.
Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analysts for e-business at Forrester Research Inc., who has been briefed on the Compare Metrics technology, says it’s a promising system that, though still in development, appears to be offering retailers “very new information” that retailers haven’t before been able to access.
Compare Metrics is offering a “Compare and Decide” technology system that gathers data from multiple sources, including how shoppers browse web sites, what they buy, what other shoppers have said in product reviews, and product details that may be stored in product databases but not typically presented to online shoppers. The system, currently in beta test by a few large retailers that Eastham wasn’t free to name, is designed to show a site visitor a mix of information geared to her interests—for example, a combination of consumer reviews and product details and images—that the system has determined will most likely pique her interest and encourage her to complete a purchase, says Eastham, who is a former analytics executive at Bazaarvoice. Bazaarvoice is one of dozens of technology vendors named to Internet Retailer's new book, Leading Vendors to the Top 1000 E-Retailers.
If a customer searches for narrow-width shoes, for example, the system will automatically start to serve up related information, such as customer reviews that include comments on experiences with buying narrow-width shoes, Eastham says. In addition, retailers can also opt to provide shoppers with a personal shopping widget, which would let them open a window to enter particular product attributes that the system would then automatically serve up in related content. “It’s all about having a real-time dialogue with customers, which ultimately is what retail is all about,” Eastham says.
The Compare Metrics system is designed to improve how it presents pertinent information the more it compiles data on how repeat customers shop, he adds. For example, by monitoring and analyzing how a consumer reacts to content over several shopping visits, the system can show her information at the point, or at various points, in her visit where it’s most likely to lead to a purchase, Eastham adds.
Retailers can then view reports on how web site visitors responded to particular mixtures of content, including the timing and placement on a web site, and use that information to further improve how they present content to shoppers, Eastham says. Compared with other web analytics applications, it’s designed to provide a more in-depth look at the particular attributes of a product display—such as the size and comments about the fit mentioned in consumer reviews—and whether such data led to a sale or an abandoned page.
“I was most impressed by the data they were capturing—the session-level data on what attributes people were using” in making shopping decisions, Mulpuru says. She adds that she has yet to see how well the user interface, or software dashboard, of the Compare and Decide application will let retailers analyze such information. “I don’t know how good their drill-down dashboards are, but it sounded really compelling and if it’s what they say it is, it’s potentially very new information that retailers haven’t had before.”
Compare Metrics is offering Compare and Decide as an Internet-based software-as-a-service, meaning the vendor hosts the software and the retailer connects to it via a web link. The company charges an undisclosed annual fee based on a retailer’s number of product SKUs and traffic volume. The company is targeting retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500, though expects to also make it available to smaller retailers, Eastham says. He adds that he expects retailers will also use Compare and Decide technology in online marketing campaigns as well as in content presented on their own web sites.
Compare Metrics uses Amazon EC2 “cloud” or Internet-based server technology from Amazon Web Services, a unit of Amazon.com Inc. It also uses dedicated web servers from Linode LLC.
Compare Metrics was co-founded by Eastham and partners Mikael Solomon, vice president of business development, who is a former sales and marketing manager for industrial products supplier McMaster-Carr, and Stephen Goodwin, vice president of development, a former software engineer who worked on Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine.In addition to Hurt, the company’s financial backers include venture capital firms Floodgate, Allegro Ventures and Contour Ventures, and individual investors Sam Decker, Ralph Mack, Eric Simone and Dean Drako.