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    New York Times: Just Browsing? A Web Store May Follow You Out the Door

    The New  York Times reports on a new type of online marketing: 

    [I]n the online world, visitors to Web stores who touch the goods but leave without buying may be subjected instantaneously to “remarketing,” in the form of nagging e-mail messages or phone calls.

    A new Web service, called Abandonment Tracker Pro, is in beta testing and scheduled for formal release next month. Developed by SeeWhy in Andover, Mass., the service will alert a subscribing Web store when a visitor places an item in a shopping cart or begins an application and does not complete the final step. […]

    Abandonment Tracker’s remarketing depends upon knowing the e-mail address of the wayward prospect; knowing the phone number will make follow-up phone calls possible, too. (And if you’ve signed in, a store would be able to find you with the e-mail address you provided when you registered.) […]

    Technically, as soon as an address is typed into a box on a Web page, it can be dispatched to a store’s server without even waiting for the visitor to hit the “submit” button. Widely used Web scripting technology makes it easy to send to a remote server every letter pressed on the keyboard. Google, for example, uses this technology for a good purpose: when one begins typing in a search term, each letter is zipped to the server, which, without perceptible delay, returns suggestions that begin with the same sequence of letters.

    The same technology, set off with each press of a key, could be used for other purposes, however, like recording the e-mail address at a site one visits for the first time and then leaves without formally submitting the information.

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