In a move destined to make direct e-mail pitches a whole lot more like TV commercials, RealNetworks, Inc. (Nasdaq: RNWK) is teaming with two other companies to provide streaming audio and video content in e-mails that will enable a customer to make a purchase without clicking to a Web site.
RealNetworks joined with @Once, a San Francisco, California online marketing company, and Seattle, Washington-based e-commerce software seller EC Direct to develop the new service, “Buy@Once.”
With the new service, customers will be able to hear tracks from a CD or watch video from a movie, then buy immediately. Merchants selling Mother’s Day gifts, for example, could send personalized e-mails that give buyers a taste of the product with streaming audio from a compact disc or video from a newly released film.
Right Place, Right Time
Buy@Once is a powerful example of Web-centric e-commerce at work because it allows Web merchants to deliver the right offer at the right place at the right time, said Dave Mullan, president and CEO of EC Direct.
Audio and video recordings seem to be naturals for the new service, of course, but it likely will extend to a much broader cross-section of products as companies continue to seek more enticing ways to turn surfers into instant buyers. Partners in the new venture would not disclose clients, but the first campaigns are expected to launch within the next two months.
The trick, of course, will be overcoming consumers’ disdain for being bombarded with the cyber equivalent of TV and radio commercials. But unlike traditional commercials, @Once notes the new service will be targeted based on individuals’ Web preferences, not blind, unsolicited pitches.
For RealNetworks, Buy@Once marks the latest of a series of high-profile innovations. Among them: RealJukebox, new music playback software, and multi-media ads within streaming media and continual improvements to the popular RealPlayer.
About the Partners
Seattle, Washington-based RealNetworks ranks among the top audio/video destinations on the Web and consistently places in the top-25 most popular sites on the Net. The first RealPlayer software was released in 1995, and to date, over 59 million unique users have been registered. The average download rate now exceeds 175,000 per day.
RealNetworks reported revenue rose 98 percent, to $64.8 million, in 1998. For the quarter ended March 31, revenues totaled $23,5 million; after-tax earnings, $736,000. The company’s stock has skyrocketed from $15.25 a share about a year ago to a high of $263.75. It was trading this morning at $194.
EC Direct aims to enable online merchants to “take the store to the customer” through e-mail and web content. EC Direct provides e-commerce infrastructure for Fortune 1000 companies and Internet-only brands. @Once is an online marketing company with headquarters in San Francisco and an additional office in Portland, Oregon.