SOURCE: Needle

November 30, 2010 10:30 ET

Needle Launches the First "Guided Shopping Platform," Utilizing Crowdsourced Product Experts for Live Online Shopping Advice

Sam Decker, Former CMO of Bazaar Voice, Joins Board

SALT LAKE CITY, UT--(Marketwire - November 30, 2010) - Needle, founded by Morgan Lynch and Mikko Valimaki in January of 2010, today announced the release of the Guided Shopping Platform -- a potent conversion and brand-building tool for ecommerce sites. The Needle platform connects crowdsourced product experts and brand mavens with online shoppers through a chat platform layered with social commerce tools. Ecommerce companies can now provide real-time conversations with product owners and people who are passionate about brands. These product experts work from anywhere they have an Internet connection.

"Online shoppers want to make bigger and more considered purchases online, but they also want to talk to a real person, someone that truly knows the product and speaks their native language," says Morgan Lynch, Founder and CEO of Needle "We've built a crowdsourced model that enables passionate brand advocates to connect with these inquiring shoppers in real-time, to chat with them, and to help them find the right item to purchase. Customers have an amazing experience, ecommerce sites have a higher conversion rate, and product experts have a way to make extra income."

The Needle service is a significant leap forward in sales assistance online. Up until now, options for ecommerce companies have been limited by stodgy support software and staffing issues at high turnover call centers. The support staff shoppers have traditionally interacted with generally don't own the product and can't make experience driven recommendations. Needle provides a turnkey service that enables ecommerce sites to provide the most qualified and motivated experts to sell their products. Needle first launched its beta with in May of this year.

In addition to the Guided Shopping Platform, Needle also announced the addition of Sam Decker to its Board. 

"What most ecommerce retailers provide is a stale experience because of the overuse of bots and canned answers, an antiquated call center mentality, and technology that hasn't really changed much over time," says Decker. "Needle's platform is scalable and powerful in how it leverages true product experts in real-time to bring a brand or product to life."

"There isn't anyone better than Sam Decker to help us take the Needle Guided Shopping Platform to market," says Morgan Lynch. "He understands the voice of the customer and brings years of ecommerce experience to our Board and to our team. He has already made significant contributions to our strategy and platform."

Needle -- The Background
The company was founded on two main premises. First, that 'chat' was developed for ecommerce as a customer support mechanism that doesn't translate website conversion, and second, online sales are being done by people who aren't equipped to provide the real product knowledge that consumers now demand.

As one of the pioneers in utilizing distributed workforces at Logoworks (now Marketsplash by HP), Lynch saw the potential for using a distributed workforce of experts in a retailer's specific market to interact in real-time with online shoppers. With experts in place and with unique reward systems, "Needlers" would engage in more authentic communication, provide an exceptional brand experience, and increase website conversion.

This came to fruition with Skullcandy, one of the hottest consumer goods companies in the country, when it became Needle's flagship customer.

"The results with Needle have exceeded our expectations," says Brett Barlow, Director of Marketing for Skullcandy. "The conversion is great, but what's had the most impact on us is the phenomenal customer feedback. Our customers love it. It would be a huge endeavor to try and do internally what Needle has done for us, and actually impossible for us to execute from a cost standpoint. The quality of the interactions with our customers is extremely high, consistent, and I couldn't be happier with the value it's provided our site."

About Needle
The Needle team understands the importance of providing a quality ecommerce experience. Needle has experts ready to help in a variety of categories from electronics to cosmetics. The Guided Shopping Platform can be used across multiple sales channels and is customized for each partner's specific needs. For more information about Needle, visit Needle is a privately held company based in Salt Lake City. Needle® is a registered trademark of Needle Inc. 

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