September 12, 2002, 12:00 AM

With site design, product category should guide display tool selection

Color-swatch technology should be a high priority for high-end apparel sites, but sporting goods? “Don’t even bother” says Forrester Research.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor


Low-cost and easy to implement, zoom is so far the only advanced product imaging display tool to catch on with e-retailers in a big way, available at 84% of retail sites recently reviewed by Forrester Research Inc. And though they’re fun for customers to play with, other imaging tools such as color swatches, rotation, virtual model and animations/video are more important to some categories and irrelevant to others, says Forrester, something for merchants to keep in mind when allocating resources.

Color swatches, for example, are key to helping customers decide online when it comes to pricier items of apparel. But how important are they in the online presentation of sporting goods or electronics? “Don’t even bother,” says Forrester analyst Carrie Johnson. On the other hand, animation and video should be a high priority for the tool kits of online sellers of electronics and home goods, a low priority for sellers of sporting goods, and not a consideration for online merchants of apparel and footwear.

Similarly, the ability to rotate the view of a product is important to selling electronics and home goods online, less important with footwear and sporting goods, and makes little or no difference to the online sales of apparel. And though virtual model technology has garnered the few apparel e-retailers who use it lots of attention, Johnson rates it a low-priority tool for apparel sites and unnecessary for online presentation of footwear and sporting goods.

Though the full range of available product display tools has yet to be universally adopted by e-retailers, Johnson says there will be enough implantation spread across sites to keep consumers’ online shopping experience interesting. “Leaders like Lands’ End will keep pushing adoption while mid-pack retailers and manufacturers will invest selectively in tools to give consumers the product information they need,” she says.



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