Letting the Customer Inside

Solutions on display at the Enterprise 2.0 show promote customer engagement.

BOSTON-The Enterprise 2.0 Conference that is running here June 9-12 featured an expo floor full of innovative solutions that provide numerous avenues for retailers to engage their customers in ways previously unimaginable.

Companies big and small are branching into the young Enterprise 2.0 space, and undoubtedly the market will see consolidation in the next few years. Among the numerous intriguing applications displayed were:

GroupSwim Forums

GroupSwim is a SAAS (software as a service) provider that enables organizations to create internal and external online communities for capturing collective knowledge. GroupSwim Forums is the company's application designed for external, customer-facing sites. A Community Intelligence Engine collects metadata by analyzing implicit and explicit online customer behaviors. The engine then allows companies to rank and categorize subject experts and content so that each customer is offered personalized information that matches their established needs. Existing content such as e-mails and blogs can be integrated into the solution.

InQuira 8 Customer Experience Platform

While InQuira's retail penetration currently consists of telecommunication providers and is priced higher than many competing systems, its Customer Experience Platform is worth investigating for retailers with deeper pockets. The solution enables customer-facing companies to embed personalized self-service into their e-commerce sites. This means that a customer can initiate a self-service dialogue from anywhere on the site, rather than having to visit a specific page.

Once a dialogue is initiated, intelligent search and analytic capabilities enable the customer to receive personalized answers, suggestions and navigation options based on their transactional history and profile information. Advanced linguistic capabilities allow organizations to give personalized answers to customer queries without relying on specific keywords. The platform also offers other content creation and management capabilities.

Lithium Technologies Enterprise Communities

Lithium Technologies offers solutions for building enterprise on-demand communities that incorporate social networking tools such as forums, live chat and blogs. Retailers can build these communities to incorporate customer-generated recommendations and other customer-created content into the shopping experience.

For example, an "Ask the Expert" avatar allows online customers to place product queries that are answered by other customers. Retailers can also include customer-driven community discussions, buying guides and editorial reviews on their sites using Lithium solutions.

Vignette Web Experience Platform

Vignette, which sells integrated Web content management, portal and collaboration software, bases its Enterprise 2.0 solutions on the VWEP (Vignette Web Experience Platform). One is Vignette Community Services, a social computing and online community solution that tracks customer preferences through online behavior. This allows retailers to rate and rank customers to create targeted customer networks, establish customer experts and deliver personalized marketing programs.

Other VWEP solutions include Vignette Community Applications, which enables two-way customer dialogue through forums and wikis, and Vignette Video, which integrates video from both internal employees and external customers into Web sites.

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