December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Because content counts at the checkout

Seeing is believing, but selling is proof. In fact, the pricier the goods an e-retailer sells, the greater the need for high-quality images showing fine details, says Gene Alvarez, e-business program director at the Meta Group, Stamford, Conn. “Picture quality comes into play almost as much as a function of price as it does fashion,” he explains. “The more I’m willing to spend, the more detail I want to see.”

That jibes with the experiences of e-retailers selling fashion goods, such as clothing and home décor, according to a recent Forrester Research survey. Among their biggest challenges, fashion merchants put the fact that customers can’t touch, feel or try on products at the top of the list. More than half were trying to compensate with imaging technologies that allow customers to zoom in for a closer view or pan images to see different angles. Companies such as Xippix are stepping up to the fashion plates with high-density imaging platforms. Fashion e-retailer StyleClick uses the technology on several sites, and Amazon.com recently purchased it for use with selected auctions and zShops merchants.

Fewer Web merchants surveyed by Forrester-less than 15%-use 3D imaging or video, and only 5% use virtual models to help sell. The latter options are especially slowed by low bandwidth. E-retailers polled by Forrester recognize that, giving them low marks for steering customers with slow connection speeds to the checkout. Still, the growth of broadband, along with prospects for reaping higher margins on fashion goods, is leading e-retailers to add imaging technologies at an increasing rate. Galleryfurniture.com, launched last year by a Houston brick-and-mortar store, has installed 48 live cameras hosted by Virtual Robotics, Evanston, Ill., in its showroom. “We want to be the Disneyland of furniture,” says the site’s IT director, Walt Dunnigan. “The cameras give customers a feel for what we’re all about.”

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