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Enhancing an eCommerce site

April 14, 2007

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On average, eCommerce site owners are usually more interested in getting qualified buyers in returning to their sites, as opposed to winning new Internet surfers. Increasingly, some are utilizing new technology that enhance and empower their sites.

Errol Denger, senior strategist for WebSphere eCommerce at IBM said "last year was noted as an an important inflection point where the primary driver of eCommerce sales growth shifted from new customer targeting to driving repeat business and maximizing market share."

Denger added "since each online shopper has a different buying style, unique selection criteria, personal motivations and shopping approach, eTailers must deliver a more dynamic experience to better accommodate individual customer preferences."

RIA (Rich Internet Application) technologies, such as Ajax interfaces, are helping eCommerce retailers, and, by default IBM as a solution vendor.

Online customers select the attributes most important to them through both IBM's solution and that of Kaon Interactive. Gavin Finn, CEO at Kaon says "on average, human beings can only process a certain amount of information before it becomes really too confusing for them."

Denger claims that about one-half of consumers presented with too much information refuse to make a choice. Instead he says, they simply move on.

New eCommerce technologies enable shoppers to better select which specific product matters most to their buying decision making.

He added "specific selection criteria can include parameters such as price, size, usage, materials, color or certain other attributes to visually sort through and narrow the product selection until the desired results are displayed on their screens."

Suketu Ghandi, manager of consumer retail at Brulant says "over and above all of this is search. Using Google, Yahoo or MSN, categories and products related to the consumer-chosen attributes are matched."

Denger added "overall, RIAs further improve final selection by allowing potential online shoppers to view how different products fit together in specific configurations. An online shopper looking to buy bedroom sheets and covers may match duvet cover, pillow shams and sheets almost as they would in a physical store environment."

In the end, successfully selling to online shoppers is no longer as simple as posting catalog items and enabling a checkout cart.

Denger says "merchandising techniques may be used to show products in different uses, dynamically change their colors and pair products and color configurations together."

For customized home furnishings, the latest Internet technology can send average consumer interest in products literally through the roof! Thomasville furniture uses Scene7's rich media platform to assist consumers visualize their interior design improvements with photo-perfect quality.

Not only can they see their new couches, they also can use the same technology in-store.

Sheila Dalhgren, Scene7's senior v.p. of marketing and communications says "for most, rich media significantly boosts consumer purchase confidence and shortens the selling cycle."

Thomasville agrees. It experienced an 1,100 percent hike in usage of its online draping application since Scene7's platform introduced easy-to-print photo-quality renderings on its eCommerce site.

Dahlgren said "as a whole, Thomasville sought to replace their out-of-date in-store solution that was only used by clerks, to offer right on their site a Scene7 draping application that anyone could use. Internet-based applications have become dramatically much easier to use. What used to be a complicated in-store application that required rigorous training is now a simplified touch-screen interface for anyone, from the average shopper to the in-store sales personnel."

Denger said "the key with emerging retail technologies is that each step enables retailers to provide a more engaging product and brand recognition which greatly increase online conversions."

Kaon's Finn says that "on average, most people spend about 30 seconds or less on any given product page. That time increases when the products are shown in 3-D. Average sales rates are typically 18 to 20 percent higher just by providing an interactive experience. That means conversions go up quite a bit."

As an added bonus, unassisted sales rates (sales that don't require sales associate interaction online) increase 30 percent to 50 percent.

In the end, the ability to virtually touch and experience products enables customers to make better purchasing decisions and retailers to significantly increase their revenues.

"As with just about any new technology, some eTailers are pushing the envelope with rich Internet applications and the next generation of user experience," Denger says. "The first challenge for us will be in educating customers to the new shopping experience and how to best use these new capabilities to their fullest advantages."

Finn concludes by saying "online customers are asking that they get the best experience at every touch point. Product comparisons and in-depth product specs are not enough. We thus developed technology that solves consumer problems."

Finn added "we are trying to satisfy online consumer demand rather than be ahead of consumers, delivering features that they haven't asked for, least not yet."

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Source: eCommerce Times

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