Magazine article CRM Magazine

Endless Possibilities: Web Designers Now Enjoy Unlimited Site Enrichment Tools, Which Will Help Companies Take E-Commerce Sites to New Levels as Broadband Adoption Rates Soar

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Endless Possibilities: Web Designers Now Enjoy Unlimited Site Enrichment Tools, Which Will Help Companies Take E-Commerce Sites to New Levels as Broadband Adoption Rates Soar

Article excerpt

What HDTV brought to television, broadband has brought to the Internet for Web designers. Long constraining users with modern and telephone lines to communicate, the days of dial-up are doomed to end as broadband continues to penetrate. Companies are beginning to exploit the irresistibly rich audio, video, animation, and user-interface capabilities of contemporary personal computing to provide today's e-savvy consumers with the same look and feel of brands they know and love.

"With broadband, it totally changes the dynamic of what's possible on the Web," says Graeme Grant, vice president of sales and operations at retail software solution provider Allurent. "When the Internet was born in the mid-'90s, people realized we had a good thing going, but boy, there was room for improvement," he says, referring to Web sites' elemental functionality. Mass broadband adoption has changed the game: Penetration rates, which are estimated at between 80 and 90 percent for households and close to 100 percent at companies, according to Gartner and Forrester Research, have reached the tipping point. But business, beware--while companies don't have to compromise the quality of their Web sites just to save a few moments of load time, when and how to optimize sites shouldn't be taken for granted. Well-defined, business-oriented goals will out.

VIDEO, ADOBE, AND AJAX, OH MY!

Until recently companies had developed sites to work on the (s)lowest common dominator: dial-up. As a result, sites have been primarily HTML-based and their content inert, comprising mostly text and static images. "Web sites were designed to be textually based," says Con O'Connell, CTO of enterprise content management vendor Vignette. Broadband access is converting sites without audio and video content into laggards; at the same time, higher screen resolutions have already made HTML pages formatted for 800 x 600 appear to float in a world of wasted real estate. "Graphics were an afterthought," O'Connell says, "and were set up so that even a textual browser could go through it, ignore the graphics, and still display information. The goal was to provide the viewer with the nuts and bolts information, even at the sacrifice of graphical elements."

However, if broadband has been the vehicle by which companies are redesigning their Web sites, then video is clearly in the driver's seat, put there largely by the e-savvy masses. When social networking site Facebook made its photo-sharing feature available, users quickly began uploading at a rate of 1.5 million images a day, making it the largest photo-sharing site on the Web practically overnight. When YouTube made video sharing easy, its usage shot to 70,000 uploads and 100 million views daily. As a result, one of the most powerful mediums invented is now in consumers' hands, and they create and distribute content--much of it commentary, essentially, on the world's leading brands. Just ask Diet Coke: Its marketing team learned up close how a group of teenagers could influence the message around a beverage using YouTube and Mentos. This Internet phenomenon became so popular that it now has its own entry on Wikipedia.

Backyard science experiments aside, e-commerce sites have followed suit, and have realized the value that video can bring to a brand. Video and streaming media has become the de facto standard by which broadband-savvy Web sites are now measured. "Video is perhaps the hottest feature to come out of broadband adoption," says Amy Shenkan, a senior expert of online/multichannel marketing and sales at McKinsey & Company. "Motion and sound is an enormously compelling proposition--versus seeing a static picture--because companies are extending their brands, they're bringing the look, feel, and experience of shopping in the store online."

One example is Nike.com, a site long known for its rich, media-intensive offerings." Nike.com is a perfect example of a company that's not selling their products, they're selling their brand," says Harley Manning, a vice president and research director at Forrester Research. …

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