Last August, we first wrote about Olark, a Y Combinator-funded startup that gave e-commerce site owners a simple way to interact with their customers: an IM widget. Now, Olark is expanding the functionality of these IMs to include detailed information about that shopper in realtime, and partnering with Shopify to make it easy to install.
For example, with this new Olark tool, dubbed Shopping Cart Saver, a site owner can get an IM every time someone hits the site. And you can see the referrer indicating how they got there. While they’re there, you can see what pages they’re visiting and most importantly, what items they’re putting in their shopping cart. If a user has a question, this same IM window serves as your way to interact with them.
You could get some of this information before with Olark, but now the service is designed to ping you depending on how you set it up. For example, if the value of the items in a user’s cart goes over a certain number, you can get an IM letting you know that.
Most importantly, this gives owners a way to stop what Olark calls “shopping cart abandonment” — yes, users putting things in their cart and then leaving. Now, you can see exactly what’s in their cart and ask if they need any help to make sure they completely the purchase.
Sure, that may sound a little creepy — kind of like a shop owner who follows a customer around the store to make sure they buy something — but it’s also extremely useful. And this type of tracking is actually not any different than the data most sites can already see — it’s just that with this IM integration, you get to see it in real time. Well, and annoy people.
Olark co-founder Ben Congleton is clear with who they’re targeting with this product: small to medium size business owners. Obviously, if you installed this on Amazon.com, your computer might explode with IMs.
Olark has partnered with the online store creation tool Shopify to offer this product with the click of a button. This IM tool will work with all the major IM services, iChat, AIM, Gtalk, Adium, etc.
The business model for all of this is a freemium one. Basically, you can try out the features up until a certain point, then you have to buy one of their plans, which start at $15 a month and go all the way up to $149 a month. This model has helped Olark reach cash-flow positive status almost from the get go, Congleton says.
Beyond the Y Combinator seed round, Congleton says Olark raised a small angel round a few months back. Since they are cash-flow positive, he’s not too concerned just yet about a larger round, but envisions it happening soon.