NetSuite sweetens its software

The hosted provider's new release aims at giving businesses additional insight into their customers.

October isn't even halfway over and already it's a month filled with significant hosted CRM product moves.

Today San Mateo, Calif.-based NetSuite Inc. released NetSuite 10, which enables companies to analyze customer buying patterns and automatically generate up-sell or cross-sell offers. The new NetSuite Upsell Manager adds tabs so that sales and service personnel can tap into customers' purchasing history.

Wellhaven LLC, a Paoli, Penn.-based seller of gifts for senior citizens, is an early adopter of NetSuite 10. On a call, Wellhaven can access the items the customer has bought in the past, see who else purchased those same products and the other items those customers also bought.

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"It's basically the 'do you want fries with that?' feature," said Wellhaven President Patricia Curry.

An up-sell wizard lets an employee profile or segment customers. For instance, a sales rep could search for customers who are most likely to buy a specific product, perhaps an item for which they'd get a sizable commission. The system then automatically schedules a follow-up call with those customers.

Version 10 also includes some previously announced functionality, such as an offline client, advanced forecasting and an automated escalation engine for the contact center.

"The message is the more you know, the more you sell," said Mini Peiris, NetSuite senior product manager. NetSuite has long emphasized the benefits companies realize in having back-office data -- such as billing and shipping information -- in the same system.

An analytics add-on module to Version 10 is designed for companies that have NetSuite hosting their Web site. NetCommerce Analytics captures clickstream data, as well as other online behavioral information, such as a customer's shopping cart information. Sales reps can access that information to gain additional insight into their leads. Out-of–the-box reports also help companies better understand how customers are using their sites. Wellhaven, for instance, generates reports on click-throughs and conversion rates.

The add-on analytics module costs $199 per month, regardless of how many users are accessing it.

Earlier this month, NetSuite competitor Salesforce.com introduced its first hosted service offering, called Supportforce. Meanwhile, RightNow Technologies Inc. expanded its service and marketing offering to include sales force automation. Another hosted provider, Salesnet Inc., released an automotive vertical edition, a data cleansing tool, an offline edition and customer-focused support services.

Generally speaking, the hosted providers are now competing on whole segments of CRM instead of features and functionality, according to Laurie McCabe, vice president for SMB insights and business solutions at New York-based AMI-Partners. She said NetSuite 10 would likely appeal to businesses with a strong online presence.

NetSuite is "playing on all their strengths," McCabe said.

NetSuite is rolling out Version 10 in phases, and most of its 7,500 customers should have the new features running by the end of October. NetSuite costs $99 per user per month. NetCRM is $79 and NetSuite SmallBusiness Edition is $49.

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