April 30, 2002, 12:00 AM

Spiegel.com zooms in on sales

Spiegel has been pleased enough with the zoom technology at Spiegel.com that allows customers to vie the details of products that it plans to offer zoom on 500 items by fall.

With the web the only bright spot in its sales story, The Spiegel Group isn’t being timid about seeing what works in enticing customer to buy at the site. The latest hit at Spiegel.com: Zoom technology. The fashion and home furnishings retailer says zoom has increased units sold by double digits for products that feature zoom. And it has more than paid back its investment in implementing zoom after only six months.

While total sales have taken a dive at The Spiegel Group-March sales were down 15% from March last year-the group’s e-commerce business has been on a steady upward path, growing 16% in March from the year earlier. The company is focused on keeping it that way. “We’re not in the business of doing what we don’t make money on,” says Richard Burke, divisional vice president of e-commerce for Spiegel Catalog Inc. Under that criterion, zoom technology, up for the last six months at Speigel.com, makes the cut.

Spiegel.com launched zoom as a hosted application from provider RichFX Inc., initially using it for 100 products on the site. Results were so positive that Spiegel doubled the use of zoom technology on the site for the next season, and will offer zoom on as many 500 products by fall.

The feature, which allows shoppers to greatly enlarge target areas of product images so as to get a close-up of details like stitching, has been particularly effective at closing online sales of higher-ticket items such as apparel or rugs. “When you’re buying something that’s $100 or more online, there’s the hurdle of seeing a close enough view of the product to feel comfortable buying it, and zoom really contributes to that,” says Burke.

He adds that zoom’s been a low-cost implementation for Spiegel.com in part because of the cataloger’s large database of existing product images, which RichFX was able to repurpose digitally for web use at relatively little expense. “We can leverage our catalog assets, and that’s one of out strengths,” he says. “Some companies that use zoom technology extensively have photography costs that can top $1 million, but we were able to use what we already have.”

Spiegel is eyeing other technologies such as color swatching and spin for a planned late summer re-launch of Spiegel.com. The jury is still out on those, but zoom technology will figure prominently into its online presentation of detail-rich apparel and other softlines. “It’s proven a solid technology for apparel and home web sites,” Burke says.

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