SaleMove Wants To Make Selling Big-Ticket Items On The Web More Personal

You and I might buy a pair of socks online without a second thought, but buying a car? Or a pricey bit of jewelry? The process becomes much trickier as the price of a product increases, and it isn’t long before canned descriptions and stock photos just don’t cut it anymore. That’s where a New York-based startup called SaleMove comes in. Instead of leaving potential buyers alone with a website, the team is working on improving the process of online personal sales.

SaleMove (founded by Justin DePietro and Dan Michaeli) graduated from New York City’s Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator┬álast summer, and have spent the intervening months reaching out to car dealerships and luxury goods dealers during a private beta program. Now the company is dropping those beta trappings and is opening its web-based sales tool to the masses.

Here’s how it works. Once a user surfs onto a SaleMove-enabled site, they can poke around as they normally would. That is unless they notice an action bar that lives on the left edge of the browser window. Clicking that brings up the option to talk to a live representative by standard text chat, voice chat, or a video conversation. No matter what option the user selects, that friendly remote operator can jointly control the browser window along with that potential customer — a second cursor will appear on-screen so the operator can guide the users along while they talk. DePietro calls it a “high-touch approach” to online sales, as there’s a knowledgeable agent leading would-be customers around and imparting wisdom as though they were physically in the same place.

SM Engaged (visitor view)

The backend is where a lot of the magic happens. Once SaleMove has been activated on a site, operators are able to see who’s on the site at any given moment, as well as information like general location, what browser they’re using, what part of the site they’re currently looking at, and how long they’ve been on the site. Those operators can also pull back to see when visitors collectively tend to visit the site to make sure that there’s a sufficient number of operators ready to tend to their whims.

And to top it all off, setup only requires the website admin to pop in a line of JavaScript (which the team will happily help out with). Those partner companies basically pay per roof — that is, they pay a set monthly fee per website that uses the SaleMove script. If you’re running a startup of your own, though, SaleMove offers steeply discounted rates if you’ve raised less than $5 million as indicated in your CrunchBase profile.

SM Home (operator view)

Now all that said, it’s hard not to look at SaleMove and question the very notion behind it (I know I did). Even with a guided web tour in place, the idea of buying a car online or something similarly expensive seems more than a little problematic. SaleMove looks at things a bit differently. Those personal web sales experiences aren’t necessarily meant to seal deals (though remote operators can even walk you through financing forms and the like online) — they’re more like icebreakers meant to give people more meaningful information than what they would have otherwise gotten just poking around on their own.

“A sale is not a one-time thing,” co-founder Michaeli said. “It’s a process.” And perhaps more importantly for some companies, SaleMove is positioning the service as a lead generation tool — people may not be ready to buy just yet, but making a personal connection and gleaning some information sets up rather nicely for future sales. The team also hopes that a forthcoming iPad app can help close the interactivity gap. Operators could theoretically take an iPad into a car and give remote buyers a thorough look at what a spec sheet and a few stock photos just can’t reveal.

We’ll soon see whether SaleMove’s peculiar approach to personal selling pans out. DePietro says SaleMove will be live in 20 local dealerships and companies by the end of the month. SaleMove has also locked up some $250,000 in seed funding from ERA itself, Autobytel founder Pete Ellis, and SinglePlatform’s Adam Liebman.