Have fun and build your own Sabaru online,” invites the copy at the car company’s Web site, www.subaru.com. Car shoppers can select color schemes inside and out, options and accessories. In 48 hours, Subaru will send the prospect a full-color postcard of the personalized car along with the address of the nearest dealer. “This is just one of the ways that Web sites are taking advantage of the convergence of technologies to go beyond an online brochure and order-taking medium to a seamless promotion marketing effort,” says interactive marketing solutions vp Anil Shrikhande of Lake Forrest, IL-based Moore Response Marketing Services.
“The Web will have a profound impact on the way publishers and consumers approach the printing of documents,” said director of CAP Ventures Barbara Pellow earlier this year. In two years, sales and marketing of network and interactive publishing is projected to be in excess of $20 billion and marketing collateral of print output quality is estimated to be another $20 billion.
“We are at a defining moment of change that has tremendous opportunities for anyone in the industry, especially marketing collateral and point-of-sale that requires very high resolution,” says chairman John Sculley of Live Picture, Inc. Sculley is the former ceo of Pepsi-Cola and Apple Computer. A fundamental change in technology called multi-resolution imaging is going to dramatically accelerate the trend of printing over the Internet. Co-developed by Live Picture, Eastman Kodak, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard, MRI takes an image and breaks it down into sub-resolutions so that each resolution is double the one above it.
The ability to have variable resolutions means that high-resolution content can be streamed over narrow band networks and easily localized and customized for on-demand printing. Marketers will be able to transmit and produce sales collateral and promotion materials in the marketplace, improving speed and reducing costs.
“Network publishing picks up where desktop publishing leaves off,” says Sculley. It allows marketers and agencies to manage and utilize document assets over networks, purposing them out to customers as personalized communications for on-demand printing. Desktop publishing is all about printing locally and distributing; network publishing is all about assembling, customizing, and then distributing over a network to print remotely, he adds.
For marketers, this kind of capability will become increasingly important for communicating with customers. This year, more than 15 million photo quality printers will be sold. At this pace, it won’t be long before consumers can enjoy print quality output from their interaction with Web sites because MIR is not limited to any particular printing device. Already, there are over 250 million images on the Internet that are relatively low resolution. There are about 70 companies developing products around so-called FlashPix technology, which is royalty-free as is the Internet Imaging Protocol co-developed by Live Picture and Hewlett-Packard, according to Sculley.
Meanwhile, FlashPix is finding its way onto Web sites in other engaging ways. Its resolution on demand feature permits a totally new experience that allows visitors to examine products in greater detail. By zooming into images, home shoppers can inspect all sides of an object or pick up and rotate products from store shelves or even remove an item from a package. It gives the Web site visitor an experience of total immersion.
The new focus: content What is different about this next generation of technology is that a lot of work previously was focused on creating tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator to manipulate an image. Now, the focus is on assembling images to create content.
“Images become an entirely new experience,” says Sculley. In addition to zooming and rotating capabilities, sound and special effects can be added to the photo. For example, a picture of a car can be manipulated by the viewer to start the engine, turn on the radio and take a virtual test drive.
Recently, Travelocity began employing the technology at its Web site to create 3D tours of the vacation destinations it offers through Royal Caribbean and Club Med. Visitors can take a tour of a ship or view panoramic images of Club Med vacation villages.
Besides the ability to examine merchandise up close and in real time on a Web site, promotions can be presented much the same way as a TV commercial at today’s current modem speeds. Unlike animated GIF banner ads, presentations can go on for extended periods of time.