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April 29, 2009

The Trend is Your Friend: Consider Social Media & Rich Content for 2009

Last week, Priscilla Lawrence, our Principal Marketing Manager with Adobe Scene7, joined forces with Dayna Bateman, Senior Strategic Analyst with Fry, Inc. to enlighten 150+ attendees on the benefits of employing ecommerce best practices. The webinar was entitled “Adobe Scene7 2009 Online Customer Experience –The Next Generation Survey Results & Best Practices” and can still be experienced by emailing us and we’ll send you the link to view (and listen to) the recording.

This webinar was aimed at revealing more on the topics of rich media merchandising, social networking, mobile and personalization features – specifically focused on the ones that leading companies worldwide have deployed or plan to deploy in 2009.

Priscilla and Dayna unveiled the overall effectiveness of these topics relative to each other – drawing from a recent, quantitative survey conducted by Adobe Scene7. They also walked through live examples of best practices that support the survey findings and trends. Attendees got a first-hand look at rich internet applications, mobile device applications, social networking sites and user-generated content—all supporting better visual merchandising.

The survey found the two top-planned activities for the coming year are blogs and user ratings/comments. Consumers want to read first-hand what others are writing about a product - before they consider buying it. A consumer-contributed blog provides an even better resource for this kind of valuable information; buying decisions have become more influenced by other consumers, than ever before. Ultimately, consumers are driving the need for retailers to create an even richer content-filled experience.

Eddie Bauer’s recent launch of FirstAscent.com is a great example of a company employing today’s online best practices. The First Ascent product line of high-end outdoor gear and apparel reasserts Eddie Bauer’s mountaineering heritage. The site captures rich lifestyle imaging, zoom, videos and mouse-driven alternative images. This rich visual merchandising is coupled with a blog with video feeds to create a compelling experience where the story of summiting a mountain is at the core. The site is updated in real time, which encourages repeat visits, and spotlight pages provide consumers with an opportunity to “get to know” specific mountaineers – their accomplishments, their current ascent and their favorite gear.

Visual filtering, advanced search, lifestyle, search landing pages and zoom are merchandising components found to be deployed most often in the survey; likely because these are what rank most important to consumers. When you compare these results to last year’s survey results, three features stand out: alternate views, lifestyle images and zoom. Land’s End and Sunglass Hut are good examples of etailers extending rich media effectively beyond the product page to critical browse and search result pages. They provide all color imagery and/or alt views to give shoppers more visual information earlier on, enabling them to quickly find what they are looking for.

Over 30% of surveyed retailers claimed social networking and improved visual content were top planned features for 2009. Rating and reviews were the first of the social networking tactics that we saw online and continues to increase for 2009. Wet Seal has found a rather ingenious way of bringing the voice (and style) of the customer to their site through a community created with caution. They have developed an online Boutique and Runway for passionate customers to create and share favored outfits. Ratings (from other online shoppers) can only be marked as “love it.” There is no “hate it” and there’s no room for comments. This manages any negativity that can get out of control in online forums. As a result, the fashionista community has become very popular and has proved very beneficial for Wet Seal because those who engage in this community convert at 2X the rate of other customers.

The top-deployed mobile tactics are featured promotions that drive to store or web and GPS mapping/store locator. Consumers are looking for ease and convenience and this clearly meets that need. While mobile is still young, it bridges the gap between user and store. eBay uses text messaging as a conduit to reach customers who are outbid by other customers on auction items, Android Apps scan barcodes so that you can find an item of interest at the best possible price point, and Twitter is a prime example of a cross breeding between mobile and web; serving as a go between you and your preferred retailers and managing your text messages for you.

While personalization has been relatively flat year over year, product or visual configurators were ranked at the top as most effective. NIKEiD.com is a perfect example of best practice in this space. Consumers can create the "shoe of their dreams" from scratch. Click anywhere on the shoe and you're given "just in time" UI elements to customize the color of the laces on down to the sole. There is a task bar in the upper right corner that reveals how much more "work" is still needed to complete customization. You can enjoy photorealistic rendering in real time and create the shoes you want to wear.

If you’d like to listen to the full event and get more information on how other leading etailers are using cutting edge techniques for better merchandising, email us.

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April 23, 2009

Up, down, turn around, with 360-degree spin

When customers explore your product at retail, they touch it, turn it, and examine it closely from every angle. Why not provide the same experience to online shoppers? With 360-degree spin, you can do that and more. Multiple, detailed images can be integrated into a viewer to provide a seamless spinning view of your product. Shoppers can zoom to view high-resolution images for ultimate detail. And, best of all, you can use “hot spots” to point out special features or guide shoppers to product details related to specific angles – as if a sales representative were right there with them viewing the product!

DSW.com is a great example of a site using 360-degree spin effectively. They display nearly every shoe using this dynamic technology, offering automatic as well as manual spin so that shoppers can experience the full range of interactivity. In addition to viewing shoes on the product page in an embedded view, shoppers can launch a full screen and a larger view to see the product in even greater detail – including the top, sole, and all sides of the shoe.

Another great example is UnderArmour.com because spin is integrated with the rest of the dynamic viewing – including alternative views, colors, and hot spots for technical specifications – in an embedded full page product view.

Click here if you are interested in learning more about Adobe Scene7 and applying 360-degree spin on your site.

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April 23, 2009

Cost-Effectively Integrate Video Into Your Site

The hot topic of the day still appears to be video production and how to cost-effectively integrate video into your site as a way to create site stickiness via improved merchandising. The YouTube craze is likely making us all aware of more and more success stories – nearly everyone is engaged in either viewing or contributing content these days. Remember, seventy-five percent of U.S. Internet users watch video online during a typical month, according to comScore data. And, since YouTube began making its videos available to smart phones over broadband cellular networks — that has only further expanded the potential audience for online video. As I’ve spoken with more and more etailers on the topic - the motivations for producing promotional Web video are clear… and, production questions frequently come up such as: How can a small (or thin budget) e-business produce videos that will resonate with their customers?

First, I think folks need to step back and really re-think their global resource allocation. How much is currently spent on marketing for your site (six figures, seven figures?) – and how effective is that marketing at getting new customers to your site… and… how well does that new traffic convert to sales? Now, what if all your traffic (both newly acquired and repeat) converted at a higher rate due to having video on your site? Is there a case to be made to reallocate some of your less productive marketing spend – into highly effective conversion spent via video? It is worth doing the analysis – perhaps you can break out of the thin-budget mindset by looking more broadly.

In any event, if you are starting to sort out how to fund a video push – I found this article on eCommerce-guide.com interesting – in that it hones in on some key findings and drills down on helpful hints for avoiding common mistakes when producing video designed to boost sales. I agree with many of the tips provided in this article because, despite YouTube paving the way for low budget production, when people see a video associated with a company, there is still the expectation that it should look more like a polished commercial. And, the only way to get around that is if you actually use customer-submitted footage because then it becomes part of the shtick. The last thing you want to do is make your business or what you sell look cheap. But the irony is that you don't have to spend a lot of money to produce a quality production. If you are thinking about going down the ‘in house production path’, which many companies are pursuing, some key points jumped out at me:

• Get a decent camcorder (will cost $800-$1,500)
• Look for a camcorder with 3 Charged-Coupled Devices (CCDs)
• Invest in balloon-like soft lights (making products and people look good) – lighting is key
• Pin a lavaliere microphone on your subject for better audio, or Use a short shotgun
• If you’re going pro, look for XLR audio microphones instead of 1/8-inch mini-plug mics
• Get a tripod that's stable yet light and has a fluid head for camera movement
• Consideration: rent the equipment you need if this is a one-off event!

Learn more from the interview conducted with Larry Jordan, president of Larry Jordan & Associates Inc. , a training firm in the Los Angeles area specializing in post-production.

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April 02, 2009

How JCPenney Brings Merchandise to Life Online


It’s a jungle out there for web retailers, and one of the best survival strategies is watching what’s happening at the top of the food chain. That’s why we bring the most creative, successful web retailers to speak at our annual Adobe Scene7 Customer Experience Live event, which we held last week at Adobe offices in San Francisco.

We were proud to host presentations by three retailers – two large and one small – who lead the pack in building brand loyalty and transforming casual visitors into customers. We’ll be putting out case studies on two of them – Philips, the global electronics company, and Cloudveil, a small manufacturer of high-performance outdoor apparel – in the very near future.

For now, I want to share some of the lessons learned from a presentation by Craig Horsley, manager of site operations for JCPenney’s jcp.com. JCPenney has been in business for more than a century, but it thinking like a start-up in bringing exciting new ideas to web retailing, while also operating more than 1,000 stores in the United States and Puerto Rico. Craig is responsible for new technology on JCPenney’s jcp.com site, which draws 520,000 unique daily visitors to view a selection of 31,000 products.

In one of its first tests of Rich Interactive Applications (RIAs), jcp.com offered a “bed in a bag” product in 2006 where customers could click to see how different patterns for sheets, pillow cases and comforters looked in combination. Sales for the product line were 290 percent over plan, Craig said, helping to resolve internal skepticism regarding the value of RIAs.

Jcp.com has since added interactivity to its Window Design Center for blinds and drapes; provided 360-degree spin for products including shoes; added navigation by both product category and brand; and increased product image sizes by 50 percent.

In October 2008, jcp.com made a big push into video merchandising by launching a “Walk the Runway” feature with models showing off JCPenney clothing lines, as well as offering interviews with fashion designers.

“We let the customer shop the way they want to,” said Craig. The new features, he added, have increased “add to bag” and conversion rates. Craig concluded with his six rules for successful online retailing:

1. Listen to the customer.
2. Make shopping simple.
3. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
4. Measure, measure, measure.
5. Continue to evolve and enhance.
6. Content is king.

Success stories – such as those from Philips, Cloudveil and JCPenney – have always been my favorite way of conveying how Scene7 can help build connections between online retailers and customers. I asked our marketing team to get audience feedback, and we heard the same thing.

“It was great to see what can be done with video,” said Matt Pritchard of Smith & Hawken. “I find it exciting that Scene7 is addressing the gap between common, off-brand solutions and an expensive, custom implementation. Translating the dynamic imaging model to video content is very appealing.”

“I was impressed to see how scalable and applicable Scene7 can be for any industry,” added Charles Solla of ZipRealty. “The breadth of customers represented from consumer electronics such as Philips to JCPenney to Cloudveil clearly demonstrates that Scene7 is a service that anyone can use.”

To watch Craig’s presentation email us and we’ll send you the link to the recording.

Adobe Scene7 Customer Experience Live event

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  • ShopTalk is a blog featuring "Quick Tips", trends and more written by experts from the Adobe Scene7 team who live and breathe web, rich media and customer experience. This interactive forum offers insights and best practices on the latest trends we are seeing in the marketplace to help improve your customer experience, ultimately driving conversions and revenues.
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