Tech Industry

Shopping tool: Are you being served?

Web shoppers could find themselves collared by online sales people using LivePerson's Sales Edition software, which lets e-tailers track and interact with browsing visitors.

Browse around a store in the real world, and after a while a sales person may approach you, asking if you need help finding anything--fetching different sizes or colors, or offering products that go with what you're considering.

But go shopping online, and you may feel like you're the only one there. LivePerson, a software company that specializes in customer service and messaging applications, is hoping its new tool can change that.

LivePerson's new Sales Edition software, launched Monday, is designed to help sales associates track Web shoppers as they enter and browse around online stores. An associate can use the software to send pop-up windows with help, coupons or other relevant information.

Sales associates using the product can view hundreds of shoppers in real-time, tracking the pages they visit, how long they stay there and where they click. The tool also helps identify shoppers, for instance pinpointing someone who has clicked to the site from an e-mail marketing pitch or flagging a premier shopper.

"Let's say they've got 500 people online right now. They can see and identify those people, watch them go through the Web site, see where they are on product pages, and at any point they can go in and say: 'Do you need help?'" said CEO Robert LoCascio.

Jared Richards, call center manager for MyFamily.com--a network of Web sites created by families--said in a statement that the software allows his company to "personalize each customer's experience by offering one-to-one interaction. Our conversion rate through LivePerson averages 40 percent, and we look forward to increasing that close rate over time."

An obvious application for the software is in customer service, LoCascio said. For instance, the software can be set up to flag any shopper who spends more than five minutes at the shopping cart page, so a sales rep can offer help. But there are also more subtle marketing uses. Some companies who have been testing the software use it to send pop-up coupons or suggestions about other items that coordinate with something a shopper is viewing.

LoCascio said the company has stepped back from more intrusive application, such as launching a chat window, and doesn't think customers will find the current version troublesome.

"I try to compare it to the normal world. In the old way you walked into a store and the lights were off, you're sitting there shopping around and you can't see anyone," he said. "We turned the lights on."