April 5, 2007, 12:00 AM

When a moving picture’s worth 1,000 words

Abt Electronics finds interactive product tours fed to AbtElectronics.com by two vendors on manufacturers’ behalf differentiate the site and boost conversions by 6%.

When the technology underlying a product is a key part of its value, how do online retailers convey that complex product information to shoppers effectively? For the web site of bricks-and-mortar retailer Abt Electronics Inc., which is No. 148 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites, interactive online product tours are one answer.

Head of e-commerce Jon Abt tells Internet Retailer that the interactive online product demonstrations, sponsored by consumer electronics manufacturers and syndicated for presentation on AbtElectronics.com by two vendors, boost the add-to-cart ratio by about 6% among shoppers who engage the tours over shoppers who don`t.

Beyond an increase in conversions, Abt says the interactive product tours, produced for manufacturers and syndicated to AbtElectronics.com by vendors WebCollage Inc. and SellPoint, also have value as a brand differentiator for Abt. “We try to emulate on our web site what we do in our store, where we are hands-on in explaining to customers how a product works,” he says. “We want them to understand it when they leave the store and we want them to be happy and come back. We think these tours really help someone understand what they are purchasing and how the technology is used.”

The interactive online product tours of technologically-complex items such as digital cameras are syndicated free to retail web sites at the product manufacturer’s cost. But not every manufacturer is offering retail sites this type of content, and the manufacturers who do don’t make it available on all of their products. That’s one reason Abt may one day explore the idea of bringing the creation of such content in-house, Abt says.

“The drawback is that we deal with a lot of manufacturers and most aren’t offering this kind of content. So you’re not able to represent all of the products in the same way,” Abt says. “But we do see the benefit of putting it up there from an informational standpoint and also from a sales standpoint.”

With more than 10,000 SKUs on AbtElectronics.com currently, Abt says that even if such interactive product content were to be produced in-house at some point in the future, all products on the site wouldn’t be accorded this type of treatment. “But on key products, especially newer technology that needs a more interactive presentation, we see this as a great win for everyone,” he says.

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