On the Web: Is Rich Media Making You Rich?
Online marketing technologies have advanced to the point where your e-commerce website should be a combination of engaging entertainment and DRTV-style hard sell. You're no longer limited to one-dimensional copy and still photos to merchandise your products. Today we have a plethora of rich media options to add sizzle to online communications and offerings. It's direct mail meets MTV.
Speaking of sizzle, imagine trying to resist an offer from Omaha Steaks where you could see a perfectly cooked hot steak sizzle and steam on the grill. Imagine if you could hear the sizzle and "yum!" from eager, waiting diners. The only things missing would be the smell, touch and taste.
Combining shoppers' abilities to read, see and hear an integrated online pitch can dramatically raise communication effectiveness and close rates. That's the experience and result a multimedia product presentation can achieve online.
Here are some of the web's more commonly used rich media right now:
1. Dynamic image generation allows shoppers to use flyover zoom, rotation, 360-degree viewing and other angles when browsing products. If you implement this, ensure shoppers can use the controls intuitively.
2. PDFs can deliver colorful, orchestrated product descriptions, data, instructions, installation and/or warranty details.
3. Simple yet effective graphical navigation tools, such as fly-out product information boxes and interactive store locator maps, make your site more interactive. Don't lose track of the idea behind such animations: They're to give visitors more control while subtly pointing them in the right direction — toward product pages and the shopping cart. Many sites still make the mistake of using flashy graphics or pop-ups that actually make the navigational experience worse. Testing is as critical as ever here.
4. Product configurators allow shoppers to "build" their products in different styles, sizes, shapes and colors, and review them in real time. Test the controls. That can be as simple as having a few employees try to use the configurator. You'll be able to see right away whether the controls make sense to an "average" web user.
5. Audio clips have fallen out of favor as the web has evolved well past page background music. Audio narration of page copy can be downright annoying. But some products still lend themselves well to audio clips.
Think beyond the obvious CDs or audiobooks. Musical instruments or electronic equipment might benefit from sound samples. Maximize the effectiveness of podcasts you create for fans or users of your products by adding them to your relevant product pages, as well as iTunes. That way, you add a rich media experience for your current site visitors and create cross-link opportunities to enhance search engine performance and draw new visitors.
6. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) personalization that allows shoppers to personalize products like ad specialties, greeting cards and gifts. See the ThingsRemembered.com website for a good example.
7. High resolution video allows merchants to dramatically show product features and benefits in a short clip of the product in use. Customers also can upload short videos of themselves using products in creative and fun ways, thus enthusiastically extolling the virtues of buying the product in a way that no paid advertiser will ever be able to. (YouTube has made amateur video acceptable in pursuit of fast and real communication.)
8. Video using graphics or line art also can be used to simply communicate concepts. The simple explanations of Twitter, blogs and podcasting in "plain English" on YouTube are good examples of how simple, efficient and effectively engaging rich media can be. Check out DailyDM.com for a good example of this. ROI
Terence Jukes is president of integrated software solutions provider Ability Commerce (TerryJ@AbilityCommerce.com).