Hoping to cash in on uncertain economic times and shrinking IT budgets, FinanCenter Inc. is aiming its e-merchandising system (EMS) at businesses that want CRM-like results at a fraction of the cost.
The Tucson, Ariz.-based software maker is attempting to grow from a provider of fairly simple online calculators into a viable player in the personalized Web tools and services space. The firm continues to keep its sights trained squarely on the financial market. Its latest release targets companies that want to collect information about online customers to market specific content at pre-selected target audiences.
"A bank or investment company doesn't necessarily want to sell the same programs to a 50-year-old client looking for information on retirement that it wants to show a younger customer looking for their first new home loan," said Jeff Herr, vice president of marketing at FinanCenter. "The script we've built reads a user's information and figures out if there is a specific area of business or promotion that closely matches their interests."
Once a financial institution has garnered a customer's personal information it begins tailoring the content available on its Web site to meet the client's individual needs. The promised result is a personalized one-to-one experience, with the EMS system choosing what zones on a Web page are delivered to particular end-users. The tool utilizes a wizard customized by a financial company's marketing team to identify certain groups of users. When a page loads it assesses whether a user is likely to have interest in a specific promotional or sales program.
Another aspect of EMS follows users' movements once they're viewing an enabled Web site and records what areas they've chosen to view. This information is used to further target specific content toward customers.
"If a person has begun to fill out an online credit application or something of the like and quits at a certain point, it can be very valuable for a company to know where and possibly figure out why they didn't follow through," Herr said.
Herr estimated that a typical EMS deployment runs in the $40,000 range with the cost of related maintenance services added on top of that price.
According to at least one analyst, the offering could hit home with a number of companies looking to get the most bang for their buck.
"I think financial institutions should find it attractive," said Shaw Lively, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. "It allows you to get in the game and learn a lot about your customers without making a huge corporate move. These companies don't want to make the big buy, particularly in this market, and here they're able to gain a lot of potentially valuable information and put it to use immediately."
Benefits without the complexity
Lively said there is an increased appetite in the market for applications that offer some of the benefits of larger CRM packages without the complexity or cost.
"I'm not saying that companies desire to have a lot of single point, non-integrated products," Lively said. "But if they can get an application that allows them to get through the next several years while learning and growing, it gives them the luxury to sit down and evaluate before buying into anything more costly. Meanwhile, I'm sure FinanCenter will have more to offer by that time. They're in a good position to grow along with the institutions that buy their products."
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