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Technology improvement, communication trends, and the quest to maximize profits during the holiday season have spurred new ways for e-retailers to serve customers. One approach is brief online video clips, used to supplement product photographs, spec sheets, customer reviews, and written descriptions. E-retailer and off-pricer, Overstock.com, embraced the approach early in 2010, has seen increases in traffic on their site and in search engine rankings. Other online retailers have seen improvements in conversion of site visits to sales and reductions in the number of abandoned shopping carts. As these retailers build their libraries of product videos and others rush to add videos to their sites, video vendors improve the required technology. One company has built a platform that can combine multimedia elements with existing product information and automatically update price or ratings information. This feature helps keep product information current without daunting use of resources.

Online retailers and software developers are also finding innovative ways to make the most of customer behavior feedback. The field emerging at this intersection of computing and retailing, known as feedback analytics, collects and analyzes the behavior of customers during a visit to an e-commerce site. The idea is to determine why customers behave the way they do, not simply to chronicle what they do, and then to address the situation to maximize sales. A customer who abandons a shopping cart, for example, could be sent a discount as an incentive to return and complete the purchase.

These approaches are showing signs of success. Of the 50 top e‐retailers, 34 are now using videos, a substantial leap from the nine using video content on their site a year earlier. Overstock’s initial pilot, a launch of video in two product categories, was so successful the company launched an additional eight categories after a month. Feedback analytics is appealing enough to Internet retailers wanting improved customer connections that the technology was used by more than 40,000 companies in the first two years of the product’s introduction.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What new techniques are e-retailers doing to promote their products?
  2. Are these techniques working?

M.V. Greene, “Just What They Wanted,” Stores, November, 2010.