Cool tools to engage customers online

These new tools offer innovative ways to engage people who visit your site, and keep them coming back.

A lot of business owners are focused on interacting with customers on social networks. But how about your plain old company website? These new tools offer innovative ways to engage people who visit your site—and to keep them coming back.

Launchrock

Best For: Building Buzz

Looking to generate some prelaunch excitement? This service helps you create a Coming Soon page for your website. After creating an account on LaunchRock.com, select a background design or upload your own, then add information about your business. A box will appear on the homepage encouraging people to sign up to receive e-mails with company news and earn incentives for spreading the word via e-mail or on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and other websites. Go to your LaunchRock dashboard to track a variety of information, including daily sign-ups and page views.

Cost: Free

Intercom

Best For: A personal touch

When people register on your website, Intercom adds their information to an online database, along with information culled from social networks and other websites. You can sign on to your Intercom dashboard to view user profiles and see when they signed up and the last time they visited. Then, you can compose messages for specific people and the notes will pop up automatically the next time they come to the site. On your dashboard, you can see a list of open replies and respond to them. Intercom rates the strength of your relationships based on how often you interact with visitors.

Cost: Free during beta testing

Punchtab

Best For: Rewarding loyalty

PunchTab's loyalty program lets you reward people for coming to your website every day, making comments, and sharing your content on social networks. After you set up the program using a wizard, visitors can click on a Rewards ribbon on your homepage and log in to earn points, which they can redeem for gift cards in a PunchTab catalog on your site. You can use PunchTab's standard rewards guidelines—for instance, the service recommends doling out 100 points for each visit—or create your own. Log on to PunchTab.com to check out user profiles and leaderboards.

Cost: Free for a standard program with up to 10,000 users

Olark

Best For: Chatting

This service makes it easy to add a Web chat function to your site. After pasting in a line of code, go to your Olark account to choose a design and size for the chat box, stipulate where it should appear, and link it to an instant-messaging program. You can also customize a welcome message and offline notification. When customers click on the box, a message opens in your IM program, where the chat takes place. You can view transcripts on Olark.com and export them to customer relationship management programs, including Salesforce.

Cost: Starting at $17 a month for one user

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