One of the trends I’ve noticed in Internet marketing recently is increased interactivity. Some attempts I’ve seen have worked and others have not. As they say, there is a fine line between stupid and clever. Let’s take a quick look at SitePal and see where they fall.
The Basic Idea
The idea of these interactive avatars is to engage a web site visitor and thus increase their interest in your product and retain them on your site long enough to hear your sales pitch. How well do they work? I think it depends a lot on your niche. I would lean toward using them in situations where you had a higher end product where the potential buyer wanted more info before committing. I could see this working very well in real estate, auto sales, or some financial service offers.
Animated Avatar Characters with Easy Configuration and Setup
The characters they have are well animated and engaging. With their demo you can create hilarious scenarios like putting a woman’s voice with Abe Lincoln’s body. As long as you’re not a complete computer klutz you can get the hang of creating an animation in no time at all.
While I haven’t delved that deeply into their interface, I am impressed with what I’ve seen so far. As a computer programmer myself I’m always glad to see a well implemented user interface and the programmers at SitePal have done an excellent job. They even supply a programming API for the technically inclined.
To make things even better they implement their characters as a transparent flash movie so it has good cross browser compatibility and you can use it against any background.
Well, this is where the rubber meets the road. Actually, I was surprised by their pricing. They start at $9.95 a month for the basic ‘bronze’ plan and got up to $49.95 a month for their ‘gold’ plan. Quite reasonable for the level of service they seem to provide.
It’s easy for the web site owner and cost effective but how will it go over with users? I think a lot of that is up to how well the characters are integrated into a site.
One important rule of thumb is such characters should not speak until spoken to. If your presentation startles the user they’ll click the back button quickly. I’ve seen a couple of car dealers have very aggressive animations and these are quite annoying. The SitePal models are good at attracting attention via body language signals. Let them do the work.
Overall, I would certainly consider using their services if I was selling certain types of products. Would it work for a blog? I don’t know. It might be an interesting experiment to have a character ‘read’ a blog entry interactively but it might be costly as compared to doing simple video blogging.
What do you think? Do you like such animated characters on web sites your visit? Do you think they’re effective in selling? Do you think animations like this suck? Any experiences pro or con with SitePal? Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts on this.