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Voices from the Global Village: The Students Speak — Chris Figueroa “Video Chatting in Commerce”

January 4, 2012

The future of digital media: the evolution of video content on the web.

The day is coming when video chatting over the Internet to do business will be as common as walking into a store and starting up a conversation with an employee. By sitting in front of a computer, with a couple clicks on a mouse or keypad, you will be able to instantly engage a company employee who will appear on your screen and ask “Hi, how I can I help today?” It’ll be face-to-face “human” interaction, except that it will be done by hundreds of thousands of ones and zeros blasting through cyber space to replicate your image on the other end of the webcam. While it may not compare to the tactile experience of walking into a store, holding a product in your hands and trying it out, or purchasing it on the spot and then being able to take it home with you, a customer will still have the ability to “enter” a store and talk to staff about products and costs. This is where the future of digital media is headed and fast!

The fact is many businesses are already selling exclusively through the Internet without their customers having to physically walk into a store to purchase products. E-commerce is booming with companies like Amazon revolutionizing how the economics of supply and demand. However, it’s obvious that video- to-video chat functions are a growing trend.

Recently Facebook added a video-to-video chat feature to their text chat function. Now you can go on Facebook and video chat with your friends, family and social networking buddies just as if you were using Skype, iChat or any other kind of video-to-video program. This is good for Facebook because it gives you another reason why you can just stay on their site to video chat instead of going elsewhere. Google has taken it a step further by allowing Google + users to video chat with up to ten friends at a time, all while watching YouTube videos simultaneously. It’s called a “Google Hangout” and I will admit it’s fun but it’s only the beginning. If Google were smart they would add the ability for users in a “Google Hangout” to view Internet webpages together and seamlessly without having to send websites links back and forth to each other to review.
IChat and Skype already have this feature it’s called a “screen share” but it’s slow and IChat and Skype obviously don’t have all the other things such as the whole social networking aspect that “Google +” and “Facebook” have.

It won’t be long before this feature can become tool to help lead the way for companies to do business and make money in the future. However, three issues must be considered for there to be widespread adoption of video to video chat functions in retail commerce:

First, mobile broadband with which we are most commonly familiar, 3g, 4g etc., cannot keep up with the rapid growth and usage of mobile devices, mobile technologies and other digital media consumption – especially not if we are regularly engaged in video-to video chat encounters. This is one of the reasons why Apple’s new Facetime will only be available through a Wi-Fi connection until 4g, 5g, or 6g can catch up.

The second reason is that, with no economies of scale, video-to-video chat functions are still fairly expensive to provide on a mass basis to individuals. For example, to run a large scale video-to-video chat function on a website requires expensive software, like the Adobe Flash Interactive Media Server, which can cost around $4,600 dollars and up and that doesn’t even include the thousands of dollar in frequent updates that are required to keep the system running bug free. The major players in the industry can afford this cost easily but don’t forget the high cost of bandwidth and server space based on the amount of users and traffic for a specific site. These costs can reach in the tens of thousands without video-to-video chat functions; just image the cost when you factor in this feature.

The third reason is people are still hesitant with the idea of doing business in a video-to-video format. Being on a webcam, one on one with a stranger, to buy something or inquire about a product is something that most people might still find a little awkward. When you walk into a store you’re still in public so there are usually other people around and you feel more comfortable interacting with an employee that is a stranger to you. But when you’re on a web cam, it’s a little bit more personal, it’s more one on one, more face to face and the comfort zone of being in public is just not there. Regardless, as video-to-video chat functions become more and more common and more generally accepted as a norm in society then you will start to see more websites providing video-to-video services to conduct business. Once the major websites and businesses start doing it then you’ll start to see everyone else follow their lead.

Regardless of trepidations about the how, what and where, the important thing to keep in mind is this kind of video-to-video chat feature on the web is only the beginning. Because of this, I have decided to start my own e-commerce business, which will launch shortly. The business will be fully online and Internet based, and one of the key features that set us apart from our competition is… Yep you guessed it, a video-to-video chat feature that will allow business to run smoother, instantly and more relevant to the Internet age that we live in. It make sense to me and that is exactly why I’m betting on the fact that you will see a lot more companies using video-to-video chat to add a nice feature and function to their websites and business models.

Chris Manhattan Figueroa
CEO of Amy’s List
MBA Student and Internet Entrepreneur

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Posted by MCNY Media Management Blog in Constructive Action, Media Management Students, Uncategorized, Voices from the Global Village. Comments Off

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