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Bell Atlantic Reaches Out Online to Attract Business, Residential Customers

Four years on the Internet is more akin to about a half-century in real-life. Bell Atlantic's Web site, www.bellatlantic.com, is light years ahead of its earlier version, which debuted in 1994. The recently unveiled version, according to William Damask, Bell Atlantic's director of Worldwide Web Marketing, is more like a portal.

"We knew we needed to move rapidly to provide our core customers with a more dynamic and transactional experience," Damask says. "We're providing a value-added service for visitors and don't want them to look at our site as a separate, static channel."

The new look has obviously been a big hit with Bell Atlantic customers. Factoids supplied by the company indicate that in October 1998 alone, total visits were 422,240 with 2,020,960 page views. Visitors are viewing almost five pages each time and staying around for a little more than six minutes, with average peak hours between 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM every day. In fact, Damask says the site has averaged about 305,000 visits a month since January 1998. About 53 percent access the site through Netscape; 31 percent via Internet Explorer, with the remainder from America Online and other sources (WebTV, etc.). The growth rate from January to October 1998 was 102 percent.

So why are viewers coming to the site in droves and hanging around far longer than the industry standard of about four minutes? Damask says it's because Bell Atlantic is providing innovative, interactive ways to get the information quickly and easily to its customers. Click on to the home page, for example, and there are three color coded icons for the company's core business 'For Your Home,' 'For Your Business,' and 'For Government.'

The 'For Your Home' section provides viewers with extensive information there are numerous subcategories, some of which include Residential Services, Internet Access, Cellular Services, DIRECTTV & USSB Digital Satellite TV Service. Click the Residential Services button and you're introduced to a welter of interactive opportunities. An online store enables customers to order a variety of products and services. A Bill Viewer button not only lets customers view their monthly phone bill, but also allows them to pay for it online.

The 'For Your Business' section gives viewers information on everything from Small Business Services to Large Business Services to Wholesale Services. Hyperlinks within each area provide customers with more detailed information on specific programs and products, e.g., Bell Atlantic's Consultant Liaison Program, Carrier Services and Telecom Industry Services.

Click on the 'For Government' section and you'll find categories for Federal, State & Local, even an Other category, which provides information on various Bell Atlantic subsidiaries outside of the company's region.

Another useful feature is a Quick Find Site Directory. Color-coded sections for each of the three core business areas and an 'About Us' (comprised of categories such as Company Profile, Executives, Investor Information, News Center, and more) section are displayed in a table form with a product and/or service category link.

Although Bell Atlantic doesn't have banner ads on the site, the company does conduct regular online promotions. The most recent promotion, for instance, is called 'Wild Things,' commemorating the 35th anniversary of Maurice Sendak's children's classic, Where the Wild Things Are. Viewers can get a special hardcover copy of the book and an audio cassette featuring a reading of the story by Bell Atlantic spokesperson James Earl Jones.

Damask adds that the Bell Atlantic site "is a continuum that we're on. We want to provide tailored, turnkey communications services and serve as an online gateway that provides our customers with personalized information."

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