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Atlanta-based ContactAtOnce! has been running trials with automotive verticals adding IM and presence management to dealer Web sites. The results of the trial, according to the company, were quite successful. Local dealers saw a "20% lift" in the number of live leads they received. E-mail suffered by contrast.

ContactAtOnce! enables local merchants to display an icon, in this case on a dealer Web site (at the listings level). When a user clicks the icon, a branded window pops up, enabling a real-time IM conversation: "is the car is still available," etc. A full transcript of that IM conversation is also captured by the system for later review.

According to new findings from AOL€™s third €œInstant Messaging Trends Survey,€ 38 percent of the 4,000 survey respondents (age 13 and older) reported that they sent an equal or greater number of IMs vs. e-mail. The Pew Internet & American Life Project this year also found that 75 percent of teens online use instant messaging and generally prefer it to e-mail.

What may be most interesting about ContactAtOnce!'s technology is the way it can sit "behind" or "on top of" an SEM campaign. It turns a click into something more immediate — a real-time contact. It's somewhat like PPCall in this regard. However, there are circumstances where consumers may want more information (e.g., the cars example above) and may be, for one reason or another, inhibited about making a call. Automotive is a great case in point. As a consumer I don't want to get hooked into a call with a pesky used car salesperson, for example.

This tool seems to sit between the anonymity of an e-mail contact (which small businesses are slow to respond to) and the immediacy of a phone call. I find it very interesting. It clearly won't be applicable across all verticals, but this sort of thing could be extremely valuable in certain categories.

If you're coming to ILM:05, Marc F. Hayes Jr., Founder and EVP of Strategy, ContactAtOnce! will be on a panel (VoIP and IM: New Communication Technologies and Local).

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. SMEs don't answer email, but if there's an IM that pops up in front of their face(s), they probably will.

  2. Great application! Users (especially younger ones) have embraced IM and are sure to adopt this as a new way to contact merchants. I think the challenge will be to get SME merchants to use IM as a business communication device. They're already struggling to answer e-mails.

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