Flip It: ActivePoint's New E-Catalog

By Michelle Megna | Posted October 13, 2006

Bruce Fields, president of BF Products, a netting and fencing store, was faced with a dilemma: how to show off his more than 40 categories of products, which are best understood through visuals. The solution, he says, is ActivePoint's new EasyFlip E-catalog, a Web-based application that's designed to give customers a tangible experience while shopping online.

"Our products are best understood through images, as customers have a purpose to accomplish and pictures more easily solve this task," says Fields. "ActivePoint's EasyFlip E-catalog is intuitive, allowing customers to see previous installations and compare products. It's also highly cost effective, and the sales team spends less time on the phone talking customers through various options because site visitors can find the answers themselves."

Established in 1986, BF Products is based in Pennsylvania and the company's 31-page catalog and Web site contains everything from fencing to screens in addition to many of the accessories and fasteners required to put these together. Because they do not have many so-called impulse buyers, an organized catalog that shows installation and other product information is key to converting browsers to buyers, says Fields.

Catalog Nets Customers
Potential buyers can browse, find and read about products online the old fashioned way, just like flipping through the pages of a printed catalog. EasyFlip can be customized according to each site's specifications. And, while customers benefit from faster access to products and a more tangible browsing experience, EasyFlip is also integrated with the online shopping cart and helps drive traffic to specific items, says Fields.


EasyFlip Catalog
Turn the Page: A comprehensive catalog with lots of eye-candy turns browsers into buyers.
(Click for larger image.)
For example, if you click on "polyethylene mesh" in the product category listing, you're taken to a page with small sample shots and pricing information. But if you click on the catalog icon and enter the item in the search box, you're brought to a spread with color photos of the product, along with pictures of the mesh in use, and you get detailed product information. Similarly, a click on "cable ties" at the site shows a simple product image, while in the catalog viewers see several pictures that are actual size, along with related products such as cable tie tension tools.

The catalog interface is intuitive, with large, colorful icons at the top for tags, note-taking, zooming, printing, e-mailing, search and help. Even the back page allows you to include an "about the company" history, providing a personal touch.

Affordable, Quick Solution
For Web-shop owners who want contextual search and smart catalog features without a huge investment, EasyFlip is relatively simple to set up. Pricing varies, but generally starts at about $80 per page. In the case of BF Products, installation took about one week. The company provided ActivePoint with .PDF files of existing print catalog pages, along with an Excel file indicating where products should be placed on the pages.

About ActivePoint: Smart-Talking Sales
Shop owners seeking customer-service help may want to take advantage of another ActivePoint product, the TX5 Natural Language Sales System. The brains behind the sales offering is proprietary technology ActivePoint calls TX5, a natural language system built from multiple search engines, each with a defined task. For instance, if you ask a simple search engine to find "a cable that connects a keyboard to a laptop," you will probably receive many answers that refer to "cables," "keyboards" and "laptops." If you ask the TX5 system the same question, you get the answer, according to the company, because it "understands" the connection between the words in a sentence.

"With a natural language processing discovery engine, coupled with the ability to recognize full sentences in the context that is being asked, you can pinpoint the exact cable you need," says Moshe Ofer, CEO of ActivePoint. "Using this type of system, an electronics firm found it has increased its conversion rate of queries to sales to 11 percent. This is a very high conversion rate, given that the standard is somewhere under one percent."

Furthermore, ActivePoint says the engines enable the system to compare, suggest, convince, negotiate, offer, answer simple or complex natural language queries and most importantly, perform a flexible dialog, adapted in real-time according to the user's needs. Everything that transpires in the system is saved on SQL databases, which lets you create on-line reports using the system's reporting tool.

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of Internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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