With the advent of reliable broadband connections across the UK, we are seeing e-commerce sites starting to use what's know as rich media to make the online consumer product experience more engaging. Brands such as Argos have in the past 12 months issued rich media guidelines to suppliers informing them of how to supply not just product photos with their product listings but also 360 degree animations and even CGI fly through illustrations and movies with voice-overs to increase the effectiveness of their listings on the sites pages.
In the case of Argos, we met with the man tasked with overseeing this project and he admitted it was a huge job. So much so that they had engaged with a number of partners to offer their suppliers a choice of vendors to deliver solutions. In the background they also signed up with Adobe Scene 7, a rich media solution for enterprise e-commerce. So they had a strategy, or did they?
Well it was an emergent strategy of sorts, the onus was on the suppliers, but we spoke to a few of them who were at the lower end of the spectrum, and they were confused by the requirements documents, and gasped at the prices they were being quoted.
I spoke with Rob Pearson, MD at CIC, and a veteran of product photography and packaging for all kinds of brands, and he said we should develop a solution that would be fast, turnkey, automated and cost effective for his customers to leverage the opportunity that rich media presented. He spoke with his clients and they felt that the rich media solutions needed to be simple, fast and cost effective. We settled on two types of rich media overlay for e-commerce that could be provided out of the box.
The first one is called a simple overlay, and consists of a photo gallery with zoom, and two extra tabs for documents such as instructions or guarantees. You can view an example of our simple rich media overlay by clicking on the image below left.
The second one is known as a complex rich media overlay, and these can include a number of customised tabs that contain elements such as video, 360 degree images, a photo gallery and multiple documents. You can view a complex rich media overlay by clicking on the image below right
But we didn't stop there, the next thing we found was that we could employ rich media to solve some usability problems within e-commerce by taking complex product offerings such as complete bathrooms or kitchens and applying the rich media treatment to help users add multiple items to their basket quickly and easily.
This for us was a breakthrough moment, the treatment couldn't be as turnkey as the creative was important and needed to work for the range in question. Quite simply we found a way to make the selection of a suite of products visually and add them to an e-commerce basket as one.
The reason I've added this article to the lab is because that's where we are with the project. Partnering with CIC we've done some spec work for brands such as Sainsbury's and the Co-Op and we think that its just a little ahead of its time. We're using Jquery and CSS 3.0 to make it really slick, so if you fancy one for your web site give us a shout we'd be pleased to engage and show you where we are with it.