ChoiceStream, Sterling Go Customer-Centric

The partnership eases the customer's multichannel buying experience.

Personalization services provider, ChoiceStream Inc., is partnering Sterling Commerce to offer its hosted personalization service with the Sterling Commerce Multi-Channel Selling platform.

The partnership was announced May 12.

Cory Wiegert, vice president of global product line applications for Sterling Commerce, said the partnership combines Sterling's cross-channel retail infrastructure and dynamic catalog and order management capabilities with ChoiceStream's algorithm engines.

"It's not just about being able to serve various channels," Wiegert said. "It's about using the same engines for different UI [user interface] access and process control points, such as the Web, call center, kiosk, and store."

Toffer Winslow, executive vice president of sales and marketing for ChoiceStream, said data generated by traffic to Sterling-supported Web storefronts funnels back into the ChoiceStream personalization engine and is turned into customer-specific recommendations.

"Bringing an automated format to personalization allows merchants to do what they always thought the Web should allow them to do, namely, personalized one-to-one merchandising," Winslow said. "Retailers who have large, dynamic catalogues want to present consumers with the appropriate choice set. You can get the right product to the right person at the right time in the shopping cycle."

Winslow said one-to-one personalized merchandising can be easy to do when dealing with a small amount of SKUs, but retailers with larger and deeper product assortments need automation to help their customers find desired products.

"Browsing takes a lot of time and effort, and searching requires advanced knowledge about what you're looking for," he said. "[This partnership] allows you to easily surface the right search to the right consumer at the right time. You can drive more sales more frequently."

Wiegert said the combined technologies allow retailers to provide cross-channel consistency to their customers.

"I'm not saying the same personalized experience will happen on the Web as it will in the call center, though it could," he said. "But you're managing offers and personalization from a single point, instead of having a different offer engine for each channel."

In addition to providing a better TCO (total cost of ownership), Wiegert said having a single-management point also allows retailers to maintain a consistent brand experience for their customers. He added that ChoiceStream functionality enables retailers to present dynamic personalized offers as well as traditional rules-based personalized offers.

"Because of its dynamic nature, the ChoiceStream engine creates models and offers that are non-rules-based," Wiegert said. "You can create real-time, transaction data-based offers that go beyond matching SKUs."

John Lovett, an analyst with JupiterResearch, said the fragmentation of the online consumer research and purchase process during the past 12 months has shattered the traditional customer life-cycle and created a need for online personalization systems.

"Consumers are visiting multiple Web sites to gather information and are revisiting multiple times prior to purchase," Lovett said. "Site operators seeking to build deeper relationships with their customers do so in part by delivering relevant and contextual content. The marketplace for both personalization and recommendation technologies is crowded and commerce platforms that partner with, or acquire these technologies, minimize the confusion for many online retailers."

Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out's Retail Site.