Updated · Apr 19, 2002
By Bonny L. Georgia
It’s not enough to launch an e-store and wait for shoppers to empty your shelves. Once you’ve brought buyers in the door it takes effort to keep them coming back. FastForward’s Easy Platform for Integrated Communications (EPIC) is a hosted suite of customer relationship management and marketing campaign applications focused on turning first time buyers into loyal fans.
EPIC’s core application is known as COMPASS, which stands for Communications and Marketing Planning, Analytics, Segmentation and Sequencing. The main interface is secure, Web-based dashboard control panel. From this control panel you can access a library of customizable templates and wizards to aid in designing and launching different marketing efforts (see below). The view also provides access to stored customer data, tools for adding and deleting products from your campaign promotions, adjusting prices, promoting discounts, and making other necessary tweaks to the marketing mix.
The feedback component of COMPASS is a reporting and analytics engine that collects customer data from each marketing module so you can compare results and judge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Reports are not quite real-time, but they’re close – you can view up to the last hour’s worth of customer activity within individual modules, giving you the power to sweeten the deal if things aren’t going as planned, or to add new incentives mid-campaign to keep momentum high.
At the center of the EPIC solution is a single unified database that tracks all customer histories and other statistics across the application, regardless of marketing module. This eliminates the duplication of data and allows you to generate a slew of comparison reports. Over time, EPIC develops a 360-degree view of your customer transaction history, and provides valuable ROI feedback for your marketing team.
Marketing module add-ons
Nine different promotional tools can be launched from the COMPASS dashboard. Because this entire suite of marketing tools is hosted by EPIC instead of installed on a local server, you never have to wait to set your marketing efforts in motion. The whole suite of tools is “always on” letting you put them to work immediately.
EPIC offers ten different marketing plug-ins, including:
- Award – A sweepstakes tool that provides everything you need to design and run your own contest giveaways. Several customizable templates are available to generate contest rules, regulations and deadlines. Entries are collected in a database and winners are selected at random after your deadline has passed.
- Click – A banner ad-server that allows you to set up and serve online ads on your Web site to call attention to new items or promotions you’re offering, cross-sell and up-sell, or push traffic to partners.
- Contact – An e-mail delivery engine for sending your opt-in marketing messages and sales offers. Built-in segmentation functions help you target your sales flyers and other marketing messages to the customers most likely to respond, or offer special incentives to your most loyal shoppers.
- Coupon – Encourages customers to try a new product by adding electronic coupons to the pages of your store. Coupons can also be offered to customers visiting your award, rebate, reward, and survey modules. You decide whether coupons are redeemable online or offline, and when they expire.
- Rebate – Add rebates incentives to products in your e-store. It’s up to you what products are eligible and the type of rebates awarded – options include checks, electronic funds transfer, stored value cards (below), e-coupons, and reward points. When shoppers redeem their rebate you can also require them to divulge contact information and other useful CRM data.
- Reward – Offer points for product purchases redeemable for premiums or specialty merchandise to your most loyal customers. A special online redemption site is added to your Web store to process Reward points for merchandise.
- Select – Encourage new business or reward loyal customers with gift-with-purchase premiums such as free software, CDs, music, or videos. You can promote these special goodies using other EPIC modules. EPIC takes care of back-end fulfillment.
- Stored Value Card – Provide pre-paid credit cards or gift cards that work like cash for store purchases. Cards can be a standalone promotion, or tied to your rewards program for extra value. Through a partnership with Visa, you can also offer branded pre-paid Visa cards that work wherever Visa is accepted.
- Survey – An online survey generation and response collection tool. In addition to capturing critical feedback from your customers, Survey can be used to do online polls, collect newsletter or warranty registrations, and sign up shoppers for your loyalty club offerings.
- Market – If you don’t already have an e-store, EPIC can build you one with this outsourced e-commerce engine. Market offers development support and site hosting, a shopping cart with order management, payment and credit card processing, fulfillment coordination, merchandising support, customer service, and real-time web reporting.
Pricing is based on renting one, three, or six EPIC modules per month. Fees are tied to the number of tools you have rented, not the tools themselves, so if you’ve rented access to six promotional applications, you can launch any six from the control panel. You can even change what you’re using midstream to achieve your marketing objectives – as long as you don’t go above your six-tool limit, you won’t incur extra fees. This makes EPIC an exceptionally flexible and affordable marketing automation system – even for smaller e-businesses.
Who’s Using It
Imation, Cottura, Pittsburg Penguins, US Robotics, NetZero
Fees, Costs, Etc.
At this time, EPIC does not assess a setup fee for new subscribers; however this is subject to change. Current EPIC pricing starts at $9,500 per module, $24,500 for three modules and $34,500 for six modules per month.
A Web-based, modular marketing automation service, FastForward’s EPIC provides everything you need to design slick-looking, integrated electronic marketing campaigns. Not only are EPIC’s template-driven promotions simple to initiate and administer, flexible pay-as-you-go pricing makes this an ideal choice for small and medium sized businesses looking to boost repeat business and cultivate a more loyal customer base.
Pros: Mix and match marketing modules as needed, with no installation hassles or setup downtime. A unified database collects data across all campaigns; backend reports pinpoint your hottest prospects and most effective ways to reach them.
Cons: The service is at its most powerful when combined with EPIC’s proprietary e-commerce system.
|Rating (Out of five)|
|Fees||$9,500 per module, $24,500 for three modules and $34,500 for six modules per month.|
|System Requirements||An Internet connection and a Web browser|
|Review Summary||A Web-based, modular marketing automation service, FastForward’s EPIC provides everything you need to design slick-looking, integrated electronic marketing campaigns. Not only are EPIC’s template-driven promotions simple to initiate and administer, flexible pay-as-you-go pricing makes this an ideal choice for small and medium sized businesses looking to boost repeat business and cultivate a more loyal customer base.|