March 31, 2011, 12:00 AM

Like Being There

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Sasson says about 25% of shoppers who visit a product page try the basic view-in-room tool, which OverstockArt developed largely in-house. Of those, about 30% will then upload a photo of their wall. He declines to reveal the conversion rate for shoppers who try the tool but says he was more than satisfied with the uptick in conversion rate he saw from having no room tool to having the basic tool, and that compelled him to have the upload tool designed. He also added an instructional video to show consumers how to upload their photos and use the tool.

The ultimate purpose of the rich media tools is to enhance the experience customers have on the site, which then leads to sales, Sasson says. "We use the same thought process for anything we do design-wise. We want to make visiting the site enjoyable and make it fun. We want them to come back just to play with the art and put it on their wall with the idea to keep them engaged and entertained," he says. "The more utilitarian aspect is that these tools also aid them in the decision-making process. As a result, we increase conversions."


Columbia Sportswear Co. incorporates video, 360-degree views, zoom and multiple product photos that can be blown up to fill the full computer screen, but the e-retailer's executives selectively match the media to the product or initiative. For example, last year the outdoor gear and apparel manufacturer and retailer introduced a new high-tech fabric and incorporated it in several of its products. The company created multiple videos that it featured on's home page and product pages that explained how Omni-Heat represented an advance over other fabrics.

Columbia also populated a media-rich microsite with other, more quirky videos that informed consumers about the technology while also communicating Columbia's brand voice. The videos on the microsite were less about directly selling Omni-Heat products through and more about providing product and brand information, says Garrett Gonzales, e-commerce creative manager for Columbia Sportswear. "The bulk of our visitors don't purchase at, but they come to us to learn how they can solve a problem," he says. Altogether, features about 60 videos, which Columbia also shares with its resellers so they can display the videos on product pages.

The manufacturer also uses 360-degree views and image zoom technology on selected products. The time and effort required depends on the product. For example, Columbia or a marketing agency must take 30 to 60 photographs of a shoe, which Gonzalez says can take a couple of hours, to capture all the views that are required so that consumers can spin the shoe around using the 360-degree tool.

Other products, such as a basic women's jacket, don't need the spinning treatment and can be demonstrated well enough with a handful of photos and an enhanced zoom application so the shopper can closely see how fastenings work, Gonzalez says. "It all depends on what the product is, and how much time and effort we want to put into each one," he says.

Having such a quantity of rich media on the site does require time and expense, although Columbia declined to detail costs. All of Columbia's rich media applications are developed with Adobe Scene7 tools from Adobe Systems Inc. Adobe says pricing for Scene7 is based on traffic, and costs from a "few hundred dollars a month" for up to 20,000 visitors to higher fees for sites that attract more traffic.

Adds character

For another manufacturer, iGo Inc., video plays an important role in promoting sales of its line of electronics accessories, not only at but also through online and offline retailers that sell its products, says Jason Edwards, iGo director of e-commerce. He aims for video to add character to a new version of that will officially debut in May. "We want consumers to see our products the way we see them, as leading-edge tech products," he says. "We needed the right rich media assets to display that on the site."

Venda Inc. provides the site's e-commerce platform and rich media tools. Venda says the charge to deliver rich media ranges from $500 to $2,000 a month, based on the number of page impressions.

Edwards says about 60% of iGo's new products will feature 15-second video clips at the launch of the new site, or about 15% of its total product catalog. Internally, iGo is reallocating staff resources to get the rich media ready in a streamlined way. The company builds video clip content in a computer-assisted design software program, not digital video, which Edwards says gives iGo more flexibility on how it can use it on the site. For example, one CAD rendering can be used within the video, zoom and rotate tools, and, with some extra work, can be used on a mobile-optimized site, which Edwards says is under development.

Extending rich media tools to mobile is a challenge, Edwards says, but the company is committed to tackling it so that mobile consumers can have access to the same experience as they do on the e-commerce site. Edwards says that mobile consumers will expect iGo, as an electronics company, to get it right, and meeting their expectations will reinforce the brand image. IGo, through Venda, is working with mobile commerce technology vendor Digby to develop the mobile site with the rich media tools. "I want to make sure everyone is getting it no matter which device they use," Edwards says. "We want to make rich media the star of the show."

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