2. Rich Internet Applications. The next item on my trends in online marketing list is RIAs. This is what AJAX is all about. Adobe Flex too. Best way to explain it is by example. Think about your typical e-commerce transaction. You browse from one page to the next looking for a pair of pants you want to buy. Then maybe you go to another page and they've got colors, buttonfly or zipper, whatever. Then you add the item to your cart. Then you go to your cart. Then you go to checkout. Then you go to create a profile. So, you'e been to like 47 pages and now you've got a pair of pants. Terrific. Lot of pages though.
Now, your forward-thinking, customer-centric online retailer comes along and his agency says there's a better way. Your customer shouldn't have to go from page to page, they should be able to pick out there pants, decorate, see what they've got in their cart, buy it, all at once. And they should be able to do it the same way they use the rest of their computer—by dragging and dropping and using sliders and such.
Here's a great prototype of one of these done right using Flex.
Why is this so important? I just saw data from a Forrester research study showing that conversions can increase by as much as 50% when RIAs are used for shopping carts. Kind of speaks for itself.
So, right now you've got Yahoo and Google and all the major players starting to add these little apps to their sites. These guys are the leaders and people are going to follow. Over the next couple of years, companies that can combine marketing savvy with smart user interface design are going to have a big competitive advantage. And happy customers. (by the way, Traction is really good at this stuff).
In my opinion, the entire internet is going to be rebuilt. Boom.
Niemen Marcus has a piano player to give customers a better shopping experience. At Walmart I think it's the Blue Light Special (I'm not sure because I've only been in a Walmart once and that was at 10:30 at night to get a fishing license because we were going catfish hunting). Every brand thinks about how to make the customer experience better in retail stores. How can they do that online? This is it.