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Tech Industry

Banners get e-commerce boost

Streaming firm Narrative Communications introduces ad technology that lets surfers buy goods directly from a banner ad.

Advertising and multimedia streaming firm Narrative Communications today is introducing ad technology that allows surfers to buy goods directly from a banner ad without leaving the site that delivered the ad.

The technology, dubbed "Enliven Impulse," aims to provide a solution to one of the greatest frustrations for advertisers--the fact that very few people who see banner ads actually click on them.

"I think it's something that really changes the nature of Internet advertising because all of a sudden, instead of having these flat boring little banners, they turn into something that actually helps the user accomplish something they need to do," said Jim Nail, a senior analyst in media and technology for Forrester Research.

"It capitalizes on two things important to e-commerce: convenience--convenience is the real driver of online traffic, not price," he said, adding that ads also allow for impulse purchases, which are becoming increasingly important on the Web. Forrester is predicting that 20 percent of all purchases made over the Web will be impulse buys, Nail said

Although the viability of advertising and commerce over the Net is no longer questioned by most, companies are constantly pursuing differing avenues, seeking better advertising strategies and technology. Many have tried pop-up windows and ads that interrupt surfing, for example. Most keep returning to the now-standard banner ad, but some firms have tried to jazz up banners so people actually pay attention to them. For instance, some banner ads now are animated or offered in real time.

The Narrative ads use Java applets to deliver an entire message and screens in which the user can make a purchase with a credit card directly from the banner ad. The user never leaves the page from which he or she started to transact with the advertiser.

Narrative is targeting companies that already conduct e-commerce but want to broaden their reach. "This is a way for merchants to pick products they know are purchased in an impulse way," said Lori Dustin, Narrative's vice president of marketing.

Retailers 1-800-Flowers, Eddie Bauer, and Godiva Chocolatier are using the ads to promote goods they think surfers will be willing to purchase without shopping around. Both 1-800-Flowers and Godiva are using them to promote Mothers Day products.

But Nail said he can see the ads being used not only for special occasions, but also to promote products such as best-selling books and CDs.

Dustin said multimedia-rich ads help draw consumers who might otherwise ignore them.

"Consumers don't like to click on banners because they don't like to be sent off to la-la land," she said.