Ecommerce Sites Need Front-End Face-Lifts

Rich Media Could be the Answer

On the show floor at Internet World, you have to look awfully hard to find a company that hasn’t invented a new ecommerce solution. Stuck in the middle of Gigabit Ethernet switchers and credit card processors is a core of companies striving to bring broadband and rich media solutions to ecommerce. If their messages find receptive ears, they could lead to a proliferation of rich media incorporation into ecommerce, rather than content or advertising interfaces.

“We’ve been hearing from a lot of ecommerce companies, and we’re focused on [them] because that’s where the money is,” said Mike Schaller, sales director for MetaCreations. His company creates 3D applications for several kinds of websites, all of which use narrowband speeds to deliver rich media images.

Recent Developments

Kodak is currently working with MetaCreations as an investment and technology partner. According to Kodak business development manager Richard Wein, 3Dapplications have already been in use, and the results are profitable. He said the company’s 3D images on CBS’ Joan of Arc website, created for the mini-series and video release resulted in the network’s largest selling videocassette ever; more than 250,000 users downloaded the MetaCreations plug-in to view the images including a click to order button.

Macromedia, developers of Flash technology, used the show to debut the company’s first ecommerce-specific application called Drumbeat 2000. Macromedia spokesperson Michael Leske said the product was developed to help ecommerce site developers include more depth and flexibility in their design, and incorporate Macromedia Flash technology with a simplified code structure.

Front-Ends Should Look as Good as Back-Ends Work

Enough with the tech talk. Of the multitude of exhibiting companies pitching themselves as site consultants, many were big broadband proponents. Jack Winer, solutions director for ecommerce provider NetSales, said he was telling prospective clients that their sites’ interfaces need as much attention as back-end infrastructures. “And if 3D gives you a point of differentiation, then that’s something you absolutely need,” he said.

His views were echoed by DataChannel marketing director Carl Andrews. Andrews’ company was pitching XML (Extended Markup Language) and other next-generation applications to website developers.

“The interfaces on many ecommerce sites need to be improved,” he said. “Very simply, Internet users are [accustomed] to the intimacy and entertainment value they get from portal and content sites. It all comes down to the interface. If you don’t give them intimacy and entertainment, you’ll die.”