January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Shopping With Sound

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

E-retailers have tried everything to boost web shopper conversion rates, now hovering at about 2%. One of the latest technologies to tackle the issue debuts today with the launch of audio-enabled e-commerce on Macys.com. In streaming audio technology developed by Sausalito, Calif.-based AudioBase, Macy's web site has implemented audio cues to improve navigation and provide information difficult to deliver with text and images alone. The technology is accessible to 95% of all Internet users, over any connection ranging from an advanced high-speed network to a 28.8k modem. Other retail sites including those of Gap Inc. and The Company Store also are working to implement audio technology, according to AudioBase officials. In tests with a shopping cart prototype, the company said, respondents were twice as likely to successfully complete the check- out process when provided with audio assistance, and over three times as many shoppers selected the correct shipping method when audio-assisted as when audio assistance wasn't provided.

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