Sramana Mitra: When you moved to create this platform, what year was it and what was the competitive landscape into which you were coming with this platform?
Paula Tompkins: It was non-existent at that point.
Sramana Mitra: What year was it?
Paula Tompkins: 1999. What you really have to understand is, we have always done the same thing. We’re an enabler. Our job is to help bring a buyer and a seller together through technology. What we’re about is helping a consumer and a business user go online and research. Most of the work we do is in conjunction with sales channels. This is all about working in an industry where they have a direct sales force, where they have a distribution network, where the products are more complicated, and someone who is knowledgeable on this subject is going to assist you with your purchase decision and help you with the closing of that decision.
It’s cross-channel and multi-channel kind of interaction. We have been working in that environment for 31 years now. When I went to build the platform, I already knew, based on my past experience on the marketplace, what kind of features we were going to need. We built personalization into our platform in 1999. We built content management into our platform in 1999 not because we went and looked at the competitive environment, but because we had the experience over the 20 plus years we’ve been in business. We knew what we needed to build and how it needed to operate.
Sramana Mitra: The competitive landscape on site-building platforms has changed dramatically since 1999. How has your company dealt with that change?
Paula Tompkins: It’s actually been interesting because we’re not selling a platform. We’re selling a turnkey service where we actually build out the solution for our clients, and we manage and maintain it. We’re not going to an IT department saying, “Here’s a platform. You go figure out how to build this solution.” We build the solution for our client. One of the things that’s really important is we do everything from the design of the customer interaction to the lead management associated with the customer if they want to be connected with a third-party retailer.
We do the usability. We do the branding. We come up with the concept. We have a help desk to help the channel partner and the brand actually manage the platform so they don’t have to become software managers. Think about us as really going to a large corporation and saying, “They’re all frustrated with the fact that these IT departments get these platforms and it takes a year or two years to get something out the door. We can get something out the door in less than 90 days.”
Sramana Mitra: Bottomline is you are still a services company. You’re not selling the platform as a product.
Paula Tompkins: We sell the platform and we sell a license. We host, manage, and maintain. We have recurring revenue on a monthly basis associated with management, hosting, license fee, and other activities. We set the platform up for the client. That is a professional services kind of activity. They may come back to us and say, “We want to enhance it.” It becomes a monthly fee.