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Siebel intros interactive selling suite

In order to expand its offerings in the online selling and product configuration market, Siebel Systems, Inc. has announced a new suite of interactive selling software. The software, Siebel Interactive Selling Suite, provides the ability for companies to interact and conduct online sales transactions with customers, resellers, retail or dealer networks. Users receive personalized recommendations and can easily configure, price and order customizable products and services.

"The Interactive Selling Suite is a customer-facing application to facilitate selling online," said Larry Warnock, vice president of interactive marketing for the Interactive Selling Suite. The suite is designed from the customer's perspective, which allows it to present recommendations in ordinary language so that customers can easily understand and follow along.

The company released the suite, according to Warnock, because a gap existed in the marketplace that needed to be filled a need for suites that address the selling process. Too many e-commerce products that are on the market only focus on one slice of the e-commerce pie. "It's like focusing on the cup holder and not the car," he said.

"The Web is a very important channel, but it's not the only channel where we touch customers," Warnock said, adding that through the Interactive Selling Suite, Siebel is enriching the Web as a channel to reach customers.

Siebel Interactive Selling Suite features controls for companies to engage a customer or prospect through an interactive dialogue of questions and answers that offers needs analysis, advice and guidance, with or without human interaction. It's an actual back-and-forth dialogue with pull-down menus and radio buttons, which changes dynamically with each answer, Warnock said. Companies can customize this dialogue for their own business purposes.

Customers and sales professionals can search for products and services in a multimedia catalog, configure custom products and services, place orders and confirm that their orders are valid and deliverable. During customer interactions, the suite also provides instant advice to ease the customer in helping himself.

The suite consists of four components: Siebel eAdvisor, Siebel eConfigurator, Siebel ePricer and Siebel eSales. These components can be purchased individually, as well as integrated into other e-commerce technologies on the Web, Warnock said.

The Siebel eAdvisor component provides situational guidance to lead a customer to a recommended course of action. Its user interface provides needs analysis and allows the customer to make trade-offs in features and functionality. Customers can get their answers without e-mails or phone calls to customer service.

The second component, Siebel eConfigurator, provides customers or named users within a sales force or channel partner organization with online-guided configuration. This simplifies the customization of products and services. The eConfigurator also improves order accuracy and ensures consistent information across all sales channels.

Siebel ePricer, the third piece of Siebel's Selling Suite puzzle, provides flexibility in the pricing of products and services, which allows companies to lead or respond to market conditions with less time spent on the administration end. Organizations can display consistent sales quotes and pricing information across multiple sales channels.

The last component, Siebel eSales, is the foundation of the personalized Web storefront. It can be rapidly deployed to deliver a visual product catalog, Web-based quote generation and online order management. ESales also provides a personalized home page for the user that delivers targeted information regarding recommended products, promotions and prior orders.

Both eAdvisor and eConfigurator have arisen out of Siebel's recent acquisition of Onlink, and pieces of Siebel's technology and Onlink's technology were integrated into the two components, Warnock said. These were joined with eSales and ePricer to create the suite, he added.

Siebel sees the Interactive Selling Suite chiefly being used in business-to-business e-commerce, although it does have business-to-consumer applications, Warnock said. "We see it being used in any industry where customer interaction or guidance would be important," including financial services, telecommunications and manufacturing, he added.

"Due to the interactive nature of the solution, [eAdvisor] really allows our suppliers to interactively select, enter data and see how the results from eAdvisor change and adapt to the data they enter," said Achim Voermanek, business development manager for supplier enablement at Ariba, Inc. The company uses eAdvisor to help suppliers and partners receive recommendations from Ariba's Web site for products to integrate into the Ariba platform and choose from enablement options, according to Voermanek.

Ariba has been using eAdvisor since May 2000, and Voermanek seemed pleased with the software. "The technology platform is very user friendly," he said. "It has a small footprint, is easy to deploy, and does not need a huge infrastructure."

Voermanek would like to see support for a multi-lingual environment in future releases. Currently, the Ariba Web site is in six different languages, and he said the language support needed some improvement. However, he is sure that Siebel will provide it in the future.

Ariba is a different example from other companies because it uses Siebel eAdvisor as a recommendation service, rather than guided selling, Voermanek noted.

Other Siebel Interactive Selling Suite customers include Sony Corp. (eConfigurator), Snap-On Inc. (eAdvisor), GE Industrial Systems and GE Supply (eConfigurator and eAdvisor) and Brio Technology (eSales and eConfigurator), among others. All these companies, according to the Siebel Web site, have been successful in their use and deployment of the software.

The Interactive Selling Suite is currently available worldwide, with the first release in English. Warnock noted that, while foreign-language versions will be out next year, the software could still be customized to ask and answer questions in other languages, because it uses HTML and other Web technologies.

Pricing for one component starts at $150,000, and pricing for the complete suite at the entry-level starts at $350,000.

For more information, visit Siebel Systems' Web site

Also check out: SearchCRM Best Links: Related Enterprise Applications: E-commerce

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