Rich Media Adds Fun to Online Toy Shopping

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For the 2000 holiday shopping season, Many toy e-tailers and makers have turned to rich media to let shoppers virtually play with toys before they buy.

"When you can explain on your site more about what a product does, we have found that it will increase sales and help lower return rates," said Sally Driver, vice president of marketing at Pulse Entertainment, San Francisco.

Pulse helps integrate 3-D animation on Web sites through its Pulse Player. Users usually can download the player from an e-tailer's site.

Pulse helped FAO Schwarz create a 3-D, interactive environment where users can "try before they buy."

For example, visitors can click on an FAO Schwarz product called the Street Flyer, a tennis shoe that turns into a roller skate, and then rotate it 360 degrees to see how the wheels work.

"If you've been to our stores you know that interactivity is a big part of the experience; you play with the toys and you buy them," said Alan Marcus, spokesman for FAO Schwarz, New York. "We needed our Web site to be this way as well."

Rich media can be especially valuable in helping consumers understand toys that have complex or unusual concepts.

Paul Eichen, CEO of toy manufacturer Rokenbok, Encinitas, CA, described his company's products as "Lego meets Nintendo." Until recently, most buyers experienced Rokenbok toys at select toy stores that set up large tables where kids could play with the toys. Eichen wanted consumers to get that same hands-on experience when they visited the company's site.

"We've been able to attract users to the site through some proper search engine placement, but once they get there, right away we need to get them involved in what our toys are about," he said.

The site was recently redone and includes Flash animation and streaming video. In early November it added the Pulse Player to power a 3-D game where users can experience Rokenbok toys. Eichen said site traffic has already increased three-times last year's total, with 20,000 to 25,000 visitors per week.

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