March 4, 2004, 12:00 AM

The Big Production

(Page 2 of 4)

Those who registered receive information and promotions related only to the Terry Tate character. Though they’ve received offers of Terry Tate gear in e-mails from Reebok containing “news” of the fictional character and links to view new Terry Tate videos on the site, Reebok does not measure the program’s success in sales, says Marc Fireman, director of interactive marketing.

“We measured impact based on buzz, film views, time viewers spent in the site. It’s all about brand impact, and people were spending on average 15 minutes with the brand,” he says. “The first year was really a program to build buzz around Reebok to drive people back to the site, build brand recognition and get them to register so we could keep talking to them.”

This year, Reebok didn’t run a TV spot during the big game, but it did create a new 4-minute video around the Terry Tate character, which it promoted by e-mail to the “Hit Squad” database in the weeks before the game. “We wanted to see if we could use our database to drive traffic similar to last year over a certain timeframe, and so far, we have,” Fireman says. Reebok also offers its Hit Squad database and other Terry Tate fans the chance to opt into other Reebok marketing programs, and that crossover has been high, says Fireman. Of respondents to one sweepstakes targeting the Hit Squad database, for example, 40% chose to opt into another Reebok program.

Reebok’s Terry Tate program streamed video for brand building without ever focusing directly on the company’s product-athletic shoes-but at consumer electronics manufacturer Sharp Electronic Corp., rich media is used to tell the product story.

Sharp doesn’t stream videos on
SharpUSA.com, but technology from provider Exemplum Inc. powers its online presentation of the Aquos LCD flat-screen television. The company launched the high-end Aquos series in 2001, using technology from Exemplum, then called Nueweb, to deliver an interactive product demonstration online. Sharp has determined that visitors who engage the interactive demos spend four minutes longer on the site than those who don’t, a 30% increase in site stickiness, says SharpUSA director of Internet strategies and services Doug Topken.

Simple demo

“We hired Exemplum to do a very simple demonstration where people could spin, flip, and explore the product,” says Topken. Because the line seeks to differentiate itself on design and aesthetics as well as on engineering and technical performance, Sharp believed a traditional text-and-image display online would not do the product justice. “The objective was to let people see it in all its beauty rather than just as a static image, and we met that objective,” Topken says.

Since then, Sharp has worked with Exemplum to further enrich the online visitor’s experience with the use of rich media. The Aquos series interactive product demonstration has added elements such as a product comparison feature that lets the user click and drag a model number from beneath a product image to place it in a grid that instantly generates data on nearly 40 product features that can be compared, point by point, across the grid on up to three products at a time. Another feature lets the user call up more than a dozen product beauty shots incorporating the product into various room settings and environments. In addition, the site now lets visitors indicate whether they have a broadband or dial-up connection to optimize demo viewing for either.

Twice the conversions

Tracking the enhanced product demonstration over the past 18 months has shown that visitors who engage the online demo convert at twice the rate of those who don’t, Topken says. SharpUSA defines conversion as the number of visitors who engage the dealer locator tool or click directly through to the e-commerce pages of an authorized Internet retailer, as the company does not sell direct online. Including in its e-mail campaigns links to interactive product demos increases overall campaign click-through rates to nearly double the average, Topken adds.

“We’ve increased both the number of products we are doing interactive demos for and their complexity and depth,” Topken says. “We have determined qualitatively that when visitors spend more time with one of these rich media experiences, they are more likely to use the dealer locator.”

Exemplum in February introduced a rich media analytics suite that allows sites using its technology to collect detailed data about the behavior of site visitors when they engage an interactive product demo-where they spend time, the path they took and which features they interact with. Exemplum CEO Brian Leitten says such data have so far been missing from the equation, and that the analytics tools will provide site operators with an inside view of how customers learn about a product, with the idea that the data will yield actionable insights to improve the customer experience and ultimately sales.

But will such data shed light on whether rich media translates directly into more sales than a static display? When site operators are looking at spending from $5,000 for basic interactive functionality to $100,000 and more for a fully interactive and extensive exploration of a product online, figuring out exactly what the technology will do to increase sales would seem no small consideration. Yet Leitten says site operators who deploy Exemplum’s technology for interactive product demonstrations don’t generally grill him on the likely direct impact on sales. “There’s already a baseline understanding that static messages don’t work any more,” he says. “It’s early in the lifecycle of adoption of this technology, and people who are adopting now are believers. As time goes on, there will be more and more answers.”

Seeing is believing

Similarly, Provis Media Group’s Summers finds that for many of the online marketers who are his clients and prospects, seeing is believing. “Most can just see the value in a more detailed rich media environment versus a non-dynamic environment,” he says. Others are finding an answer to the question of value by simply looking over their shoulder. “Building a better user experience than the competition leads to increased revenues,” says Summers. “If company A is going to beat company B, it has to display its product better. The way to do that is with some of these rich media features.”

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