Holiday Prep: Eddie Bauer streams gift ideas

Eddie Bauer knows it's tough for online shoppers looking at static thumbnail images to see product details such as the lining inside a US$223 leather jacket, or the density of "snow" in an $18 snow globe.

So this year, in time for the peak holiday shopping season, Eddie Bauer added streaming videos to its flagship retail Web site, eddiebauer.com.

The 30- to 45-second video clips make it possible for online visitors to see products from all angles and hear about their features. For the most part, the video content is consistent with the information already available in online text descriptions, but it's more accessible to visitors, says Brian Walker, group manager of development services at Eddie Bauer's e-commerce division.

"A lot of the information customers see and hear is on product pages, but customers have to work to find it," Walker says. "The videos make it easy."

Help from outside

Eddie Bauer is working with streaming video services provider Vendaria Inc., which created the videos and is hosting them on its Vendaria Envision platform.

Vendaria software, embedded in the Eddie Bauer Web pages, can detect which browser, operating system and media player - RealNetworks Inc.'s RealPlayer or Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player, for example - a visitor is using. The software then retrieves a compatible video file from Vendaria's site.

The Vendaria software also can determine a visitor's connection speed. Dial-up users are sent a lower-resolution video than users who have a broadband connection. The content is the same, but the lower resolution file is smaller than the high-resolution file and easier for dial-up connections to handle.

The video versions are selected without user input, which was important to Eddie Bauer, Walker says. Many customers don't know what media player they have installed, or what their connection speed is, he says. Vendaria takes out the guesswork.

Vendaria also relieves Eddie Bauer of the technical - and financial - burden of creating and maintaining the infrastructure to support video traffic, Walker says. It's one of the main reasons Eddie Bauer opted to outsource its video efforts.

"We're really about selling products and converting customers, not downloading media players," Walker says.

From wool pants to cotton towels

There are 30 videos available on eddiebauer.com, covering a range of accessories, home goods and clothing for men and women. Eddie Bauer deliberately chose a wide cross-section of products, and the company is collecting Web session information to see which videos are most effective at converting browsers into buyers.

It's still too early to tell if the videos are increasing sales, but so far the metrics seem positive, Walker says. Early next year, Eddie Bauer plans to do an in-depth study of the Web logs and transactional data associated with the videos to see if the multimedia experiment met its expectations.

Click here to browse through Eddie Bauer's holiday product videos.

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