Flash, AJAX brings new applications to the web and simplifies processes like shopping so that users spend more time browsing and, thus, selecting more products. RIA brings more opportunities to a retail marketer if used within the requirement that best fits into this new technology. Some of the challenges and opportunities are:
Retailers can put a 3D virtual space where the consumer can seamlessly navigate and explore like an offline showroom. Customers get rich brand experiences also from audio and video – a combination of media which enrich the user interactivity. Marketers can take advantage and ensure maximum exposure of brand.
Responsive Purchase Process
With the advent of RIA, customers have the flexibility of purchasing with no limitations. At any time, they have the option to seamlessly go back and forth through their purchase process, remove, update, and add, save – all within the same window sometimes. These fluid experiences bring the brand to life and marketers require helping the customer at every step of the buying process to maintain the same.
New Navigation Tools
Customers today are presented with complete new navigation tools in the RIA technology – tools which simplify the usage and are highly visually interactive and compelling. Customizable pages, movable interactive icons, cross-disciplinary searches are some aspects. Marketers can use these advantages to position their retail brand cleverly and encourage users to stay on their site longer and shop more.
With RIA, Web 2.0 and Social Networking, customers are participating more in real-time interaction with known and unknown shoppers before deciding. Marketer’s careful strategies would provide useful information about your retail products and ensure more discussions in real-time interactive worlds.
We know how Rich Internet Applications (RIA) can influence an ecommerce website. Apart from those advantages, RIAs have some disadvantages also. In this post we will see some of the common disadvantages of RIAs.
RIAs are fast in display
RIAs are sometimes too fast while displaying content, with the result that the customer might not notice what you want them to see. Because of technological advances, the quickness of the action would sometime mask the fact that an action has already occurred. For e.g. when a customer adds an item to their cart, the page sometimes may not reload. But the cart icon on the top right hand corner would indicate that the number of items added to the cart has increased. Now a savvy shopper might notice the change in the cart, but a novice user might wonder what has happened. Marketers should take care to display information which notifies a customer that a change has happened to their cart.
New functionalities require new information
New functionalities using RIAs would have multiple advantages. But how many users would figure out how to use them and for what? If users are not familiar with these features, then they would not easily be inclined to click and investigate. It is because of this that marketers should not allow their retail sites to lose certain conventions and standards set for global navigation. For example, if an icon looks like a slider, then users would expect it to behave like a typical slider. Similarly, RIA widgets like buttons, checkboxes, sliders which initiate action should be conventional in interaction.
Balancing HTML and RIA
A balance between HTML and RIA has to be maintained. An ecommerce site need not have plain text in RIA, as it’s more sensible to have that in HTML – load factor and editing process is simpler. This simplicity in execution would go a long way in maintaining usability and performance without that extra pinch on resources.
RIA’s are taking a stronghold in the world of Web 2.0. Through technologies like Ajax and Flash, RIAs overcome traditional page-based Web browser constraints to deliver more interactive and responsive Web functionality. RIAs beget rich user experiences when they help users:
Sort large data sets
Enables users to dynamically sort through thousands of information using interactive tools, whereby they can narrow the list by criteria that are most important to them – a task that would take countless attempts if done via traditional forms, which don’t provide insight into how the input parameters affect the results.
Control multi-step process
One of the biggest limitations of page-based HTML functionality is that multi-step processes require linear task flows. But, by replacing traditional HTML forms with a Flash application, users get all of the information and functionality that is required in one screen. Users can select multiple options in any order – all happening without a single-page reload.
Rather than forcing users to download a separate image for each different view, an in-page Flash application gives visitors a 360-degree view of products that they can easily pivot with left and right arrow controls. When they click on a color swatch underneath the product, the image immediately updates with the chosen color without loading an entirely new page. If users want a closer look at the details, they just need to mouse over the image to see a magnified version that temporarily replaces the product description.
Get information that’s hidden or out of view
Traditional online mapping sites require full page refreshes to re-center a map. But with RIAs retailers can present their location maps of their outlets, stores inside layout, whereby users can pore over large expanses of land by dragging the image across the screen as one would slide a map across a table. Clicking on any link within the layout displays the additional information about the section of the store – like square footage, how many products displayed, brand names – in the context of the retailer’s store.
Use familiar controls and features
Many retail sites today offer customers the flexibility of sorting their carts, managing items and previewing them dynamically. RIAs provide features like dynamic sorting of user requested data, drag-and-drop and pane resizing.
What you need from RIA and what you can get from RIA are two different requirements. As a retailer you need to be clear whether your online activities require the intervention of RIA today or in the near future. Rich brand experience is attained through the use of RIA applications. To consider whether your retail site requires the implementation of RIA technologies, you need to consider whether the deployment of such a technology would lead to greater flexibility for upgrades in future and lower overall costs of ownership. It is true that RIAs take users beyond the capabilities of familiar page-after-page navigation and presents users with everything on the same page. Read more