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Nordstrom Silverscreen’s videos are not designed to be directly clicked to produce a buy page as in J.C. Penney’s online TV commercials, nor does it show a direct link from NordstromSilverscreen.com to Diane von Furstenberg fashions. But viewers of the Silverscreen videos can click a link on NordstromSilverscreen.com to Nordstrom.com, where a search for the designer’s name produces plenty of clickable images of her products.
The technology behind J.C. Penney’s clickable video version-known generically as “hotspotting”-meanwhile, is already capable of far more sophisticated combinations of entertainment and online shopping, experts say.
While viewers of J.C. Penney’s version click anywhere in the video screen to produce a buy page for the apparel products featured at the moment they click, future videos will provide more flexibility in clicking on several items within the video, experts say. For example: When viewing a video commercial for women’s apparel worn by a model walking along a beach, a shopper could click directly on the model to produce a buy page for the outfit she’s wearing, or click on the image of a beachside hotel behind the model to produce a web page for making a reservation at the featured hotel, says a spokesman for Klipmart Corp., a company developing interactive e-commerce videos.
“Hotspotting is not used much yet, but we’ll see the emergence of technology that lets whoever owns the video monetize every aspect,” says Chris Young, CEO of Klipmart. “It could be anything that an advertiser chooses to hotlink-a car in an ad or the shoes on the model showing the car.”
Providers of hotspotting technology like Viewpoint Corp., United Virtualities and Klipmart say the capability for such interactive shopping videos is already in development, and that rolling it out is more dependent on the way retailers and advertisers want to make their online videos interactive.
“Video is here to stay on the web, whether in advertising or other content,” says Patrick Vogt, CEO of Viewpoint and a former executive in charge of web sites at Sony Corp. and Dell Inc. “Consumers are driving it because they want a richer experience on the web.”
New York-based United Virtualities is offering a technology it calls Shoshmosis, which develops interactive HDTV content so that viewers can click on any item in a video viewed on the web to link to an e-commerce page, a pop-up for additional product information, or a complementary banner ad.
M2B World Inc., a unit of Amaru Inc., is planning to introduce to the U.S. market this year TV set-top boxes, already available in Japan and Singapore, that let TV viewers using an IPTV Internet connection use voice-activated controls to access niche TV programs and related e-commerce sites. The TV programs may feature products that are available on M2B’s apparel and accessories site StarzMall.com or beauty products site RoyalHive.com, a spokeswoman says.
The tip of the iceberg
A preview of what’s to come from M2B is now available on RoyalHive.com, where viewers using a conventional web connection now watch a video about actress/fashion designer Jennifer Lopez, then click to a shopping section to purchase products. The video content doesn’t necessarily directly relate to products available on the site for purchase, but is intended to engage shoppers who may be interested in such products, says Colin Binny, CEO of Amaru.
As new versions of video technology appear that mix entertainment and shopping online, most retailers should find a way to play a role, experts say. “This will benefit bigger retailers who can afford the technology more quickly,” Klaris of Kurt Salmon says, “but overall it will raise the bar in retailing.”
Adds Okamura of J.C. Williams Group: “The cost of streaming video is coming down considerably to make it affordable for small and mid-sized retailers. We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg with this.”
Bill Maher stakes his claim to the “Gold Rush” of online retailing
At first, says Bill Maher, political humorist and host of the new “Amazon Fishbowl” talk show on Amazon.com, he wasn’t sure what to make of Internet video programming. “I pictured that delayed, out-of-synch transmission you often see when Matt Lauer talks to Shuttle astronauts,” he tells Internet Retailer in an interview conducted via e-mail.
Plus, he admits that he’s not up on cutting-edge technology. “I’m still trying to figure out how to shave with my Razr phone,” he quips.
But his Fishbowl job is offering something that he can’t get through his HBO TV show, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Maher says. “Episodic Internet programming strikes me as this vast, unexplored yet-to-be,” he says. “It’s like the Gold Rush. I wanted to stake my claim.”
He figures the Amazon venue offers him the chance to interact with a more mainstream audience than he gets on HBO. “And, best of all, I’ll have the privilege of kicking things around with some of the most creative minds in literature, film, television and music. What’s not to love? We aim to make ‘Fishbowl’ every bit as smart and as engaging as the television shows I’ve done.”
And now that he’s seen the technical quality of online videos, he’s hooked on the Fishbowl. “We live in a consumer culture,” Maher says, “so I’m delighted to be pitching my tent in the middle of world’s biggest, most successful online shopping mall.”
With e-commerce, TV shows can monetize everything
As Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers create dual roles for their web sites in entertainment as well as e-commerce, TV programs are making their own moves to get a piece of the action in online shopping.
At ShopABCTV.com, for instance, fans of more than a dozen ABC programs can find items worn by actors in TV shows and click to purchase them from one of about 50 retailers or directly from ABC’s e-commerce partner, San Francisco-based Delivery Agent Inc.
The line-up of TV shows includes “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “General Hospital” and “The View.” Participating retailers include Nordstrom Inc., Neiman Marcus Group Inc., The Sports Authority, Brown Shoe Co.’s Shoes.com, American Eagle Outfitters and Amazon.com.