Streaming Media Makes a Site Stand Out

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In the heavily populated world of e-commerce, what determines whose site will be successful?


Is it the layout and design of the basic site? We all know of sites where no expense was spared on design, yet the company failed to produce a commercial success.


Is it the product offering? We all know of sites where the product offering was more than adequate, the pricing was competitive and service was acceptable, yet success was elusive.


Is it a traffic problem? We read letters every day in forums and discussion groups from those whose sites generate a lot of traffic, but sales volume is marginal.


What determines success is the ability to stand out in a crowded field. What determines success is making your site different from competitors' sites. What determines success is the way in which you present your offering so visitors will want to stay at your site and buy from you.


Purchasing decisions are not simple. It doesn't matter whether you're targeting consumers or business buyers. People seek ways to make their buying decisions easier. It is up to you to:


• Learn what your customers want.


• Highlight the features and benefits that appeal to customers.


• Present your product in a way that differentiates you from your competition and uses your product knowledge.


How do you accomplish this in a meaningful way that does not drain your marketing budget? Use streaming media to capture your audience's attention and to focus on aspects of your product that will generate a sale.


Let's use an Internet store specializing in Southwestern pottery as a hypothetical example. We will assume the store has an attractive Web site with good navigation and a secure shopping cart system. The return policy is clearly stated, and there is specific contact information.


On the site are good product descriptions, small, fast-loading graphics (which can be enlarged for closer inspection) and a well-designed price list. The products are grouped by type (urns, bowls, vases, etc.) so that a visitor can browse easily. A perfect Internet shopping experience, right?


The answer is a qualified "yes," because this store is no different from several hundred others selling the same merchandise.


How can this store owner make shopping at his site exciting, fun and memorable?


• Use a short audio to introduce Southwestern pottery to the visitor. What are its characteristics? Why is it different from pottery produced in other regions?


• Use a slide show to show visitors where the pottery originates. Use pictures of the artisan's studio and the area that surrounds it. Coordinate the slides with a script that describes the geography and how it contributed to the style of pottery shown.


• Interview several of the artisans on videotape. Let them tell your visitors about themselves and their work.


• Do a video as a cross-promotion with a local interior designer. Describe and show how best to use Southwestern pottery as part of a decorating scheme.


• Use video to show the creation of some of your better pieces. Take your visitors inside the artist's studio for an up-close look.


You might even be able to generate revenue with some of your original programming. Sell commercial spots within the presentation to other merchants that offer products complementary to yours. (This can be as simple as inserting a graphic.) Work with these merchants to promote local events that highlight the products of your area.


For an e-commerce site with affiliates, use streaming media to help your member sites. Put together a slide show that gives participating members a chance to highlight their sites for a small fee. Use two or three graphics from each member and have relevant text from each member scroll by as its store appears in the show. Not only do you recoup some of your production costs from the advertising, you also get sales commission when member sales increase.


Streaming media should not be used arbitrarily, however. Unless your material is relevant to your visitors and adds perceived value to their purchases, don't waste your time or theirs. When designing your streaming media presentation, ask yourself what it will accomplish that your current content does not. Will it complement your existing material? Will it be used to enhance your offering? Will it provide additional incentive to make your visitor buy?


If you can answer yes to those questions, streaming media should be a strong candidate for your marketing dollars. Use streaming media technology wisely, and it will go a long way to making your e-commerce site stand out in a very crowded field.


•Ronni Rhodes is owner of WBC Imaging, Oro Valley, AZ. Reach her at Ronni@wbc imaging.com.
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