10/23/08

Novica appointing ambassadors to help shoppers navigate e-commerce

The e-retailer of products made by artists around the world is using co-browsing technology that enables customers to interact with each other on the same pages of the web site in real time. They also can request a session with customer service reps.

Paul Demery , Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Online retailer Novica soon will be appointing ambassadors. Not ambassadors to foreign countries, but ambassadors to consumers to discuss the works of art it sells from artists around the world.

And the ambassadors will not be communicating by phone or e-mail-they’ll be chatting with consumers as both simultaneously browse and draw on the same web pages on Novica.com.

Novica already has enabled its customer service staff to conduct co-browsing with shoppers in need of assistance. The e-retailer uses technology from Sesh Inc. (“Sesh” is slang among the younger set for a group activity, a social session.) For customer service, a shopper can type the word “help” while viewing a web page; this initiates a co-browsing session-framing the web site in the Sesh interface via the technology on the e-retailer’s servers-and notifies customer service to immediately meet online. From there, both users can navigate the web site, use a magic marker tool to draw on the site, type comments in a mini chat room, and perform other activities.

Novica, a partner of National Geographic, currently is appointing longtime customers who are extremely familiar with different artists and product categories to serve as ambassadors. Customers will be able to request a co-browsing session with an appropriate ambassador, who will earn points toward Novica purchases for her service. Novica will unveil this service in January, promoting it on its home page and other areas of the site.

“Our Novica Friends is an e-commerce social networking community that enables customers to connect with others that share similar interests in unique and handmade works of art from around the world,” says Charles Hachtmann, co-founder and chief technology officer. “Novica Sesh takes the next step by enabling customers to interact live as if face to face, creating social bonding and trust. Real-time interaction turns our site of art and handmade goods into a gallery in which customers can experience the art together.”

The more intimate the sharing experience, the more infectious excitement about products becomes, which will lead to increased conversion and sales, Hachtmann adds.

“As one item is discussed, ideas about complementary or similar items can spark additional sales,” he says. “Novica ambassadors will be the most credible source outside of friends and family. And trusted advice translates to purchase validation.”

A co-browsing session trumps social networking exchanges, where social networkers can post products on their personal pages and ask for feedback, contends Dan Hattis, co-founder and chief operating officer at Sesh.

“Everyone is talking about the intersection of e-commerce and community,” Hattis says. “The Internet has always been a fairly solitary activity. Even with social networks today, the activity itself is fairly solitary-it’s like posting notes on the refrigerator and waiting for others to see them. Co-browsing brings two Internet users together on the same web pages at the same time, just like a face-to-face conversation in the real world.”

Topics:

business finance, Sesh, Social network service, Sociology

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