October 27, 2005, 12:00 AM

How e-catalogs will be doing more to power up visual merchandising

Scene7 is developing technology that puts the dynamic imaging, information-grabbing and shopping cart functionality accessible on the rest of a web site right into the middle of the e-catalog page. Development partners are The Bombay Co. and Amazon.

What’s the next step in the evolution of e-catalogs? It could be technology that puts the image-enhancing, information-grabbing and shopping cart functionality accessible on the rest of the web site right into the middle of the catalog page. Dynamic imaging technology provider Scene7 is developing such a package in partnership with the Bombay Co. and Amazon.com Inc. on a timetable that could make the offering available sometime early next year. Bombay is No. 191 and Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites.

Shop by Collection is geared toward online merchants looking to move beyond an e-catalog to functionality more integrated into the web experience, says Scene7 CEO Doug Mack. “People launch e-catalogs because they love the lifestyle imagery. There is value to e-catalogs,” he says. “The challenge is that it’s a separate fork on your web site. It’s not really integrated into the web shopping experience.”

Current e-catalog technology most often requires the shopper interested in several products in a lifestyle photo of a room setting, for example, to switch around among multiple product pages to find detail and shopping links for all the products. Shop by Collection incorporates what Mack describes as “next-generation user interfaces” around core dynamic imaging technology that will allow merchants to load all content related to all the products in the room setting into a template so as to provide a single-screen merchandising experience.

“So if I am looking at some lifestyle imagery and I hover over an item on the page, there’s a data feed that will then show the product in silhouette, with all product information such as price and dimensions,” he says. Shoppers who want to drill down for greater visual detail can from that page also implement zoom, color switching, and other imaging functionality for individual items in the lifestyle photo. From that page, shoppers can also drop the items in the photo into a cart.

“Within a single screen environment, they are getting immersive merchandising information,” adds Mack. “The idea is to try to move the web away from being a point, click and wait for a new page medium, to incorporate some of the things you can do with imagery and improve the user interface so shoppers can have a better experience, especially when looking at ensemble merchandise.”

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