E-retail has grown more than 50% so far this year for the department store chain. Belk plans to spend $32 million on the project.
Not a Stretch
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"Silverlight is relatively quick, and an easy, light install," McDevitt says. "When you make it easy, people don't seem to mind."
It's a Snap
Rich media vendor Snap36's entire business is centered on making things easy for e-retailers. What Snap36 specializes in—360-degree spinning images—isn't new. What Snap36 markets is a system that makes it simple to take the photos necessary for the spinning sequences.
The company launched just last year and has about 10 customers. One of them, golf supplies retailer Golfsmith.com, is finding that products with the spin feature have conversion rates at least 10% and sometimes as much as 40% higher than products without it.
The secret to Snap36 is the robot, says Michael Dreas, the vendor's director of photography. Snap36 works with FotoRobot, a Czech Republic-based company that manufactures robots that snap pictures of a product placed on a rotating table. The robots automate the time-consuming task of taking the many photos necessary to produce a spin effect, and a robot can snap a picture every three seconds, Dreas says.
"If you want to do a really nice 360-spin you need to take 12 to 72 photos with multiple angles," says Dreas, who estimates a photographer would charge $500 to $ 2,000 for the images needed to simulate spinning a single product.
Golfsmith has added spin photography to hundreds of products since relaunching its site in July, says Eric Mahlstadt, senior online store manager.
The spin feature lets golfers see the size, shape and overall appearance of clubs with more detail than is provided by zoom and high-resolution product images. "Every bit of extra information helps the customer make the right choice when they can't pick up the actual club to examine it," Mahlstadt says.
Snap36 will take photos in its studios or travel to the customer. It also leases and sells the robots. Dreas says Snap36 sold its first set of robots in December and the company has sold three more this year.
Prices range from $6,700 to $13,800 for the robots and various accessories. Training and installation is $1,000 per day plus travel expenses. Snap36 suggests three days for installation and training, but it varies with each installation. When Snap36 takes the photos, it charges $100 to $400 per product, charging more for large products like gas grills.
Whether it's spinning photos, video, high-definition TV or widgets, shoppers like the added detail and entertainment that rich media provide. The good news for e-retailers is that new technology is making rich media more affordable, flexible and cooler than ever.