Retail Technology
| Log in | Subscribe

Subscribe | Log in
Retail Technology

Unlike the early years of internet adoption, content delivery expert George Fraser claims that today’s online retailers must move beyond static elements and consider a vast array of dynamic and rich features in their website strategies

Unlike the early years of internet adoption, content delivery expert George Fraser claims that todays online retailers must move beyond static elements and consider a vast array of dynamic and rich features in their website strategies


While many retailers are successfully adding this more engaging content to their sites, many others still struggle to do this without significantly slowing page load time, according to the vice president of international markets for Limelight Networks.


Fraser said that not only is it feasible to get creative without sacrificing performance, its also feasible to deliver a quality experience without breaking the bank. You need to know first what elements contribute to the quality of your site, and second how to create a system that maximises your resources for the highest levels of efficiency, he said.


Rich media invites visitors to interact online, furthers brand awareness and increases purchase intent, he continued. From product images to training videos, not only do they deliver experiences that retailers want to impart, they are also increasingly a feature that online consumers demand. They keep consumers from straying elsewhere and make it easy for them to take action. Along with knowing how your site performs, rich media deployment requires a carefully planned website strategy.


Frasers gave readers three tips for their site strategy:


1. Accelerate the experience


For retailers, web acceleration has not traditionally appeared at the top of the priority list, but it has recently become a key factor in the performance of online assets. If a site doesnt load quickly, or if a video spends too long buffering, visitors move on.


Web acceleration is new territory for many retailers. How can you approach the challenge of achieving a cost-effective, yet high-performance result? Fraser recommended you start by considering three technology factors: reach, scale, and the ability to customize an acceleration solution to your specific needs:


  • Reach. How well can you spread your message online? If your audience is global, or in specific geographic regions, your infrastructure should support positive experiences for your audience, no matter where they are.
  • Scale. You want as many people as possible to engage with your site, but traffic is rarely predictable. You need the ability to turn up capacity quickly and cost-effectively in the event of unexpected traffic demands.
  • Flexibility. Originally the domain of IT, web acceleration services are now falling within the marketing realm. A new, more flexible payment model is needed to support objectives and often-uneven timelines for marketing campaigns.


For example, Quiksilver Europe, seller of clothing and accessories for surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding, provides numerous images and videos on its website to promote its highly visual brand. To ensure that site performance remains optimal, the retailer decided to implement website acceleration services that leverage a robust global network. This allows the retailer to reach their global audience, scale when expecting huge traffic spikes during events like Quiksilver Pro France, and ensure optimal viewing experiences.



2. Manage your rich media assets more efficiently

Retailers need to systemise the process of adding new rich-media assets, fine-tuning media format and presentation, and supporting delivery to multiple devices. For video specifically, an online video platform provides a way to simplify the publishing process and create the richest possible content for online consumers. There are three different video platform choices to consider: build versus buy, free versus premium, and simple versus complex publishing:


  • Build or buy. Build your own video platform? This will depend on your ability to make decisions about video player technology, transcoding, device support, as well as maintenance and troubleshooting.
  • Free or premium. Choosing a free video platform such as YouTube can involve a slew of limitations. Consider how much control you need over branding, ad placement, and visual style before making a decision.
  • Simple or complex. As your content library grows, the ability to publish video efficiently becomes more and more important. If youre updating content frequently, consider a video platform with a drag-and-drop interface that lets you not only add content, but customise it quickly and easily.


3. Optimise your site for the highest performance

Retailers want consumers to focus on content, rather than wondering why a picture takes so long to load or why the site is popping up an error message on their Android phone. Consider instituting regular health checks, with your IT team or by hiring an outside expert, to ensure that your site is optimised and tuned for performance across all devices. Check the underlying code, file compression, and mobile compatibility:


Code. Speed up page delivery by combining scripts and stylesheets, splitting objects across different domains, and optimizing your sites search function. Performance can impact the consumer experience, but also your search engine optimization rankings.

Compression. Free, open-source solutions can help you squeeze out better site performance. Even compressing a 100K JavaScript makes a difference.

Mobility. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile by testing it across the wide range of devices and operating systems available at the very least, decide on which devices you will/will not support.


The end result


A high-quality web experience is a reflection of a retailers brand. Fraser concluded: An engaging, easy-to-navigate site can convert an interested public into paying customers, while communicating that the retailer is equally accessible and attractive. A retailers approach to incorporating rich media elements and delivering a high-performance site efficiently and cost-effectively are every bit as important as your design approach.