Dell, Eddie Bauer Do a 360 on Selling

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Dell Computer Corp., Eddie Bauer and other brands expect their use of 3-D rich media technology from Viewpoint Corp. to boost online sales, alleviate customer service and improve demos for sales calls.

Dell is using the technology for its new Internet server products on Premier to show its business customers 360-degree views of the products and to zoom in on internal features such as the motherboard, along with explanations. Users can take a virtual tour inside the machine and can pause to view certain parts.

"When you look at rich media, there is absolutely a benefit for customers who want to download a plug-in. We're delivering information faster and providing cost savings for our customers," said Patrick Vogt, vice president and general manager at Dell Online. Dell expects that its $50 million in daily sales on the Web will increase with Viewpoint technology, Vogt added.

The downloadable plug-in to execute the 3-D tour will benefit Dell's home and small-business users, who typically do not have enough bandwidth to view some rich media presentations. "You don't have to wait for the entire stream to come in before you can manipulate and view the image," Vogt said.

Eddie Bauer used the technology to promote its spring shoe collection online. Shoppers could view, interact and examine the shoes' features in a self-controlled, 360-degree environment. They could flip the shoes over, zoom in on special features such as patterns and "bend" the shoes to check their flexibility.

"Anytime we can add additional depth and information online, it enhances the shopping experience and aids our customers in making purchasing decisions," said Brian Walker, manager of I-media business development at Eddie Bauer.

Meanwhile, Viewpoint rich media will be used to promote other Dell products on Premier and in a Showcase area in the near future.

"The strategy is to bring a showcase area, expanded to the rest of our product lines, to display the product in a more realistic fashion to our customers," Vogt said.

Vogt also expects the technology to alleviate online customer service support. In the company's Medium and Large Business Center area of, business customers will be able to learn about the product before calling customer service.

"Rich media can really play an important role in cutting costs. Anything you can do to knock down customer service time is beneficial," said Bob Rice, CEO of Viewpoint Corp., New York.

Dell will be using the images offline as well, for both training and sales calls. "Instead of demo boxes, we would populate the 3-D images for our reps to use," Vogt said.

Rice believes more corporations are using the technology -- Nike, Sony and The Sharper Image are some of Viewpoint's clients -- partly to aid in customer service online and offline. For example, Eddie Bauer is displaying the technology on LCD screens in some of its stores. However, the technology will not work without the proper text explaining the components of a product. "The technology itself doesn't sell something. It's got to be intertwined with the sales story," Rice said.

Marketers also can transform their traditional two-dimensional catalog graphics into images that can be rotated or zoomed in on using the technology.

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