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Unica introduces context server to Affinium suite

Unica Corp., an analytical CRM and marketing automation software provider, has announced a new component to its Affinium CRM software, Affinium Interact. The new component fosters real-time personalization and serves analytically based, context-sensitive customer information across multiple channels.

Affinium Interact leverages customer information from various data sources and creates a complete view of customer behavior. It also delivers personalized recommendations for interacting with individuals via the Web, contact center, wireless or other real-time channels.

"Interact is an analytical context server that incorporates historical information, predictive profiles, and what is happening with the customer in real-time, along with the company's business rules and objectives to determine what is the most important offer" to present to the customer, along with service level and editorial content recommendations for customer service representatives, said Carol Meyers, vice president of marketing for Unica.

According to Meyers, Interact differentiates itself through three key factors.

First, Interact uses a full suite of customer information across various points, rather than relying on information through a single contact point. Affinium Interact rests on Unica's Universal Dynamic Interconnect architecture. This allows the Affinium suite to use data from any source, such as an Oracle or Sybase database.

The second differentiating factor is that Interact uses a variety of data mining and data algorithms, as opposed to the one or two algorithms used by most software, Meyers said. These algorithms allow users to build a model to predict what a customer may purchase next or if the customer is likely to leave, and then take the appropriate measures to retain them.

Finally, Interact is geared for personalizing more than a single channel. It caches real-time information, which can be particularly convenient if a customer has been surfing through a Web site, then calls a company's contact center. Interact then can alert the representative, and allows the representative to know the customer may have had a frustrating experience on the Web site. On the sales side, if a customer abandons their shopping cart, a customer service representative can know what was in that shopping cart and can facilitate the closing of the transaction, according to Meyers.

While the software is XML-based, Interact also supports HTTP, Java, J2EE, Enterprise Java Beans (EJB), C++, COM/DCOM, Visual Basic and CORBA interfaces.

"Although most (companies) are really beefing up their CRM systems, they're not necessarily going to rip out systems already in place," Meyers said. "It's important for companies that have various interfaces to still be able to exchange data and personalize for older-architected solutions."

Interact was built for speed, according to Meyers. It can handle up to 1,000 requests per second per server, which personalizes interactions for approximately 4 million visitors per server per day. A company can use multiple servers to increase capacity.

"Interact allows us to automate a lot of campaign management processes to get them to market sooner than otherwise ... it saves time," said Carl Touchie, director of decision support services for Bank of Montreal.

Bank of Montreal has been using Interact since June, and Touchie is "very satisfied" with the software.

"Everything they've given to us, they're continuously improving it," he said. "Only as you work with it, you start to experience some things that need improvement.

"We have found (Unica) really leading in terms of ... integrating all of the CRM processes, and they've been very responsive to our needs," Touchie said.

Right now, Unica is finding its main customers for Interact lie in financial institutions, retailers and e-tailers, and telecommunications companies, Meyers said.

Currently in the beta testing phase, Affinium Interact will become commercially available in February 2001. Pricing starts at $250,000 for a perpetual license, but Unica plans to offer Interact on an application service provider (ASP) basis and a term license.

For more information,

Visit Unica's Web site.

Also check out:

SearchCRM Best Links: Marketing Applications: Campaign Management.

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