Getting real-time interactive television commerce (t-commerce) deployed successfully means formulating a group of partners committed to launching trials, gathering and analyzing data and making changes. Rinse and repeat. There are valuable lessons to be learned, and it takes being nimble.
icueTV, a provider of end-to-end, real-time, interactive-television (iTV) commerce applications, began working with Denver’s Comcast Media Center (CMC) in 2008 to lab-test and certify its Enhanced Television Service (ETS) platform that allows advertisers, cable and satellite operators and programmers to engage directly with their audiences and to receive actionable data measurements like viewer preferences, demographic information and purchasing habits. HITS AxIS-supported subscribers can take advantage of a host of interactive t-commerce applications: click to email, click to purchase, voting, polling and audio and video downloads.
Via the platform, TV viewers can purchase products, vote and request coupons or more information from an advertiser by using their existing remote controls and their set-top boxes. What icueTV says differentiates ETS from other platforms is that it can produce an application’s front-end delivery plus handle the function for complete, turnkey, back-end fulfillment.
In partnership with the CMC, icueTV was deployed by Comcast’s “HITS AxIS for t-Commerce” fulfillment, and it was fully compatible with any set-top box and “over-the-top” application, the two say. Together, the CMC and icueTV successfully demonstrated a “live” t-commerce transaction at the 2009 National Cable & Telecommunications Association gathering in Washington, D.C., over a District of Columbia headend.
Following that demonstration, Toledo, Ohio-based Buckeye CableSystem struck a deal with icueTV to trial t-commerce with a sample group of Buckeye “friends and family.” The Travel Channel entered into icueTV’s host of partnerships by providing DVDs of one of its popular programs, “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” and this became the first fully interactive, end-to-end t-commerce transaction to be deployed on content bound to a program.
Here’s how the Buckeye trial worked: The sample group of beta-test participants was emailed a Buckeye CableSystem-branded invitation to participate in a t-commerce trial during one weekend in February. That email contained a link to register on the icueTV/Buckeye Web Portal and allowed for the purchase of a DVD supplied by icueTV’s participating program partner, The Travel Channel. Within five days of the invitation, some 30 percent of the invited “friends and family” sample group signed up to participate.
During the course of the two-day trial, registered participants interacted with an icon “bug” that appeared on their screens during The Travel Channel programming. With a simple click of the remote control, participants were prompted to buy “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Collection 1.”
Confirmation emails of the order were sent directly to each participant. All transactions were handled seamlessly, with no disruption of programming on The Travel Channel, and icueTV’s back office handled the entire fulfillment necessary to complete the end-to-end transactions.
Buckeye Cablevision anticipates participating in more EBIF trials in the coming months.
icueTV’s t-commerce application is the core service module of the ETS. It allows viewers to select and purchase products offered by content providers or advertisers. With a few simple clicks of a remote control, a TV viewer can purchase such products as a DVD of the show they currently are watching, their favorite actress’ dress or even a ring-tone of the latest hit song.
If TV viewers want to learn more about a product or an event as it is being shown on the screen, icueTV’s Request for Information (RFI) application takes over. This application can be customized to allow an advertiser or programmer to respond to a viewer’s request by email or direct mail. The RFI also provides the advertiser with a list of actionable leads and is capable of delivering digital assets directly to a mobile device. Bringing in some successful call-center practices, icueTV’s Click to Call application allows an advertiser or programmer to fulfill a viewer’s request for more information on a product or event shown on television if the viewer provides a telephone number. The icueTV ETS then can deliver that phone number as a hot lead directly to the advertiser’s call center, after which the viewer will be contacted directly.
icueTV’s voting and polling application provides additional opportunities for the viewer to interact with programmers, advertisers and television networks. Viewers can vote on their favorite shows, news reports, television commercials, political ads, game shows, sporting events or they even can participate in surveys. icueTV’s voting apps also give instant feedback to broadcasters for live television events.