Best Of 2000 In Online Customer Service

Alexis Gutzman

Updated · Dec 26, 2000

Every year at this time when we compose our Christmas letter to
send to family and friends far away, we marvel at all that’s
happened in the past twelve months — a new baby, a new book,
many firsts for the children. Unfortunately, a Christmas letter about
the last year in e-commerce would read like an obituary — so
many carcasses littering the road behind us. However, many
companies remain to serve customers who continue to go online to
shop, looking for better value, greater convenience, and
personalized service. Technology vendors will be needed to serve
these companies.

In some of these categories there are a lot of competitors. In my
investigation, I may have overlooked a vendor or two — heck, at
least eight new alternative payment technologies were announced
in the fourth quarter of 2000 — so if you don’t see your favorite on
the list, please let me know what it is and why it merits mention.
The ones I selected below are those that solve pressing problems
with sound technology. In every case, the business problems drive
the technology, not vice versa.

Best Marketing Technology for Grabbing Visitors at Your
Home Page

Angara — Angara permits your site to recognize anonymous
visitors the first time they arrive at it. Using anonymous cookie
information they’ve purchased from a number of vendors, they can
tell — before your server delivers any content to a visitor’s
browser — the location, income, and other
non-personally-intrusive information about the visitor. This enables
you to serve the appropriate content and the appropriate
promotions the very first time. When you know that more than
50% of visitors to your home page won’t click any deeper, you
realize that it’s essential to grab the visitor with home page content.
(See Recognizing Customers You’ve Never Seen Before for
more information.)

Best Alternative Payment System for Online Purchases
InternetCash — Truth be told, there are several good payment
solutions that offer consumers who generally prefer to pay with
cash the opportunity to shop online. I like InternetCash because
they don’t rely on customers coming to the merchants through their
own shopping portal. The problem with the shopping portal model
is that the merchant pays the payment solution company for a
customer every time (in addition to a discount rate). Can you
imagine how big MasterCard would be if all shoppers who
wanted to use MasterCard had to go through the MasterCard
site, then merchants had to pay MasterCard a 3-15 percent
affiliate fee? Everyone would prefer Visa. I first saw InternetCash
offered as a payment option at Overstock.com. It’s not yet clear
which alternative payment solutions are likely to achieve critical
mass for B2C commerce. One of the factors that will dictate
success is the availability of cash-paying consumers to purchase it
at brick-and-mortar outlets. InternetCash is available from over
5,000 retailers nationwide. Other factors are branding and
visibility. Because InternetCash is a payment option next to Visa
and MasterCard on the checkout page it will certainly have a leg
up over the shopping portal systems, which are doomed to remain
bit players. (See InternetCash for more information)

Best Anonymous Shopping Solution
Incogno — Incogno’s solution facilitates more anonymity than
shopping in the real world with cash. With cash, you leave
fingerprints and people see your face. With Incogno, each party to
the transaction gets only the information it needs. The entire
checkout process takes place inside the Incogno SafeZone.
Product purchase information goes to the merchant, shipping
information goes to the shipper,