August 29, 2007, 12:00 AM

Ice.com turns up the heat on product videos

Ice.com is swapping out basic rich media and putting more importance on product videos. By January Ice.com expects to have 70% of all products – representing more than 3,000 SKUs – showcased on video.

Making design changes isn’t always about keeping up with the competition. Take the case of Ice.com Inc. which is supplementing rich media for some of its jewelry in favor of product videos.

Today Ice.com, No. 182 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, uses rich media applications to let visitors and shoppers click on larger images of rings and other jewelry. Visitors can also mouse over an image to see the merchandise from a different angle. But in the future Ice.com will be enhancing, and in some cases replacing, its rich media images with more product videos.

So far the online jeweler has filmed and posted about 280 product videos on Ice.com and Diamond.com, and plans to have 400 posted by the end of November. By January Ice.com, which reported web sales of about $50 million in 2006, expects to have 70% of all products – representing more than 3,000 SKUs – showcased on video. “A product video is a real experience and is more entertaining to viewers than rich media,” says Ice.com CEO Shmuel Gniwisch. “Rich media used on jewelry is limited and gets boring after awhile.”

Ice.com uses a professional video photographer and its own production studio to film each piece of merchandise. A typical 15-second clip features a model, which in some cases are Ice.com employees, with a bracelet or ring and close-ups of the jewelry from different angles. A script written by Ice.com’s marketing department and read by a professional narrator touts each product’s finer points and ends with an offer of free shipping on purchases of more than $150, free return shipping, and a 30-day money back guarantee.

Ice.com is making the transition from rich media to product videos to let shoppers see the merchandise in greater detail. Another goal is helping customers make an intelligent purchasing decision. “The one thing you can’t do online is try on the jewelry,” says Gniwisch. “Buying jewelry is a very emotional and personal experience. Product videos deliver a better and more personal shopping experience than just standard rich media.”

Ice.com is working with ROO Online Video Network to host the product videos. The company’s video player is compatible with all major browsers, operating systems and media player combinations and enables Ice.com to show its product videos in a DVD-style format. So far about 200 daily visitors to Ice.com are viewing the product videos and sales conversions from those visitors have increased by 50%.

The videos are packaged to look like a regular element on the Ice.com and Diamond.com product pages – the links are placed directly under a large picture of a ring or bracelet in the center of the page. The page layout is designed to showcase the video, but not to overwhelm the shopper with too much media.

Ice.com is a big believer in using the right aspects of web design and production to drive sales. The retailer has a full-time web design staff of eight developers who report into a design manager. Each employee has about five years of experience. Ice.com is using video and other new elements such as blogs to round out its marketing and merchandising strategy. Eventually Ice.com wants to create an e-commerce site with the same depth as major TV retailers such as QVC and Home Shopping Network -- but without the added cost of expensive TV programming.

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