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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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  • 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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