The "Wow" factor that accompanied the introduction of streaming media on the Web has long passed, and the technology now has to prove itself to marketers. Its' acceptance by advertisers, in conjunction with other rich media technologies, is on the upswing, but it's still not widely used to enhance commercial sites.
Companies trying to do business on the Internet are bombarded with marketing advice. Go to your target market. Promote your brand. Develop a web "community." Publish a Zine. All of it, good advice. But shopping carts are still being abandoned at an alarming rate, and conversion has become the most important web statistic.
In the absence of live salespeople, who know how to listen and focus in on the customers' desires, businesses on the Web must use the technological tools available to replicate that human experience. Streaming is one of those tools.*
Streaming Media is a natural way to motivate purchasing. It can be integrated into your website as a means to help people get over that "hump" when they haven't been able to see or touch a product. Use it to calm customers' nerves, build their trust in your company, and to keep their excitement about your service alive.
When would streaming media serve visitors' needs on a commercial or business site? Use it for:
*Product Demonstrations - Visuals are powerful and convey product features difficult to explain only in text. Medical devices are great candidates.
*Installation issues - especially for products geared to personal safety such as child car seats - are expertly handled with video.
* Human Resource professionals can use it to enhance corporate Intranets for remote sales forces and clients. Training programs can be stored and viewed by personnel at their convenience. Both audio and video can be used in conjunction with written materials to explain company policies and procedures.
*Streaming slideshows are an economical method of showcasing vacation facilities, business plants, and real estate properties.
*Demystify the shopping experience - use it to navigate the selling process.
*Teachers and coaches of dance, sports and gym activities can highlight their training methods with short demonstration clips.
Many businesses would like to use streaming media but are put off by high production costs. Keep in mind that existing materials might be perfectly suited for current needs. Your streaming provider should be able to assist you with preparing and, if needed, modifying your material.
Streaming media is a very effective and affordable marketing tool. In today's world, where consumers have more purchasing power and choices than ever before, it can be used to make your customers aware of benefits that can't be found elsewhere. And, benefits often turn into sales.
Streaming media should not be used arbitrarily, however. Unless your material is relevant to your visitors and adds perceived value to their purchase, don't waste your time or theirs. When designing your streaming media presentation, ask yourself what it will accomplish that your current content doesn't. Will it complement your existing material? Will it be utilized to enhance your offering? Will it provide additional incentive to make your visitor buy?
If you can answer yes to those questions, streaming media should be a strong candidate for your marketing dollars. Use streaming media technology wisely, and it will go a long way to making your business site stand out in a very crowded field.
*What IS streaming? Streaming promises quick access to crucial audio and video content without the aggravating wait for files to download. Downloading requires that files be sent to the user's PC in their entirety before they can be played; MP3 audio is a perfect example of this. The files then remain on the user's machine until they are deleted. Streaming continuously sends these same files, which have already been digitized, to the user's PC while the user is listening or watching. When the stream is ended, no data is left behind on the user's machine.
Ronni Rhodes is the owner of WBC Imaging, an Internet company that specializes in web site enhancement utilizing streaming media technology. With her husband, Don, a digital media engineer, they work with companies to incorporate streaming as part of successful and meaningful sales and marketing programs.
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