E-Commerce Innovation: 360-Degree View of Online Products

The growing interest in online shopping and the associated revenues realized by e-commerce merchants are causing a new wave of innovative Internet-based technology to be unleashed worldwide.

This week, British e-commerce technology developer Stratum Media announced that its new “Eros” technology was deployed by U.K.-based BE Direct, an online vendor of consumer electronics and household goods. The E-Commerce Times set out to view the new Eros system.

Upon entering BE Direct, we randomly headed for the Camcorder section, where two out of six camcorders were labeled “Eros Enhanced.” To be precise, the “O” in Eros is actually the Greek Omega letter.

We chose (again, randomly) the Sharp Model VLE610 camcorder, which linked to a page featuring the product’s specifications along with a Java applet, under which controls were arranged, labeled Main, Spin, Stop, Alt, Big, and Zoom. We selected the “Spin” control, and, indeed, the product began to rotate, displaying a 360 degree view of the camcorder. “Alt” toggled between different vantage points. The “Zoom” control produced an outlined box, which we dragged to our desired part of the camcorder image, and upon releasing the mouse button, a magnified area of the image filled the entire Java applet area.

Along the right side of the Java applet we found 4 buttons labeled Hot 1, Hot2, etc., each of which caused particularly clear closeups of various parts of the camcorder to be displayed in the Java applet.

Unlike many Java applets, the Eros technology loaded particularly quickly, not only for a Java applet, per se, but especially for one delivered by a U.K.-based site. (We are located in Los Angeles, California). We were impressed with both the performance and the utility of this new technology.

Advantages

Generally, we like to see clearly what we are buying online. Even though a camcorder, for example, is an item that we would typically physically research ahead of time and then perhaps order online if the price was below that which is available offline, we still appreciate seeing it clearly. In this case, the 360-degree view is not a deal-maker, but rather, a deal facilitator.

However, the ability to see a 360-degree view of a product is much more significant with online purchases which are not extensively researched ahead of time, as in the case of impulse items, or often, gifts. Stratum Media’s Eros allows that and, as such, is an excellent technology for online merchants. The potential customer gains an added dimension of familiarity with the purchase that is simply not possible with static images.

Drawbacks

Java-based “anything” delays the loading of Web pages, which is generally undesirable for an online store. However, online merchants must weigh the benefits of displaying their products in a superior way, versus irritating some shoppers who are equipped with slow Internet connections.

It is also important to keep in mind that the Eros system is not a true 3-D technology, but, rather displays a series of still photos of the product, which are displayed sequentially, thereby giving the illusion of a 3-D viewing. For this reason, setting up an extensive array of photos for each product can turn out to be time-consuming and demanding great detail of the online merchant wishing to use the Eros technology. Although the products we viewed were certainly animated smoothly, we suspect that a merchant with moderate photographic experience, might face a steep learning curve.

Nonetheless, Stratum Media’s Eros represents an innovative e-commerce technology that is easy-to-use and stable. From what we saw, the Eros system seems ready for prime-time deployment, and offers online merchants clear sales and marketing benefits.

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