The objectives are to analyse the effects of electronic forms of catalogue distribution in the mail-order catalogue market. The project will analyse the potential benefits as well as the changes required at each stage in the information chain. The project will:
show how a system designed to support electronic distribution would necessitate a closer integration of "publishing" with data processing, and how this integration offers improved flexibility in marketing, pricing and analysis of product performance;
evaluate alternative distribution scenarios: on-line access to a multimedia server, integrating on-line access with multimedia CD-ROM, and cable TV delivery;
analyse what aspects of electronic catalogues are crucial in order to motivate customer acceptance.
The project Interactive Multimedia Catalogue (IMC) will focus on the mail order catalogue business. The target public for this business is the private residential sector. As of today, all major players in this market are eagerly examining the possibilities offered by electronic products, on-line or off-line. This might mean off-line distribution such as CD-ROM, or various forms of on-line distribution, such as cable TV, enhanced videotext, or direct connection to a centralised service. These new forms of distribution affect the entire information chain, starting from authors and content providers, via distributors, to end users. IMC will address the changes necessary at each link in the chain.
The time is ripe to undertake trials of these new forms of distribution involving real consumers. In order to plan a pilot application in this area, our project will explore the prerequisites. Among these are:
the technical, organisational and "mental" changes necessary within a catalogue business in order to produce and distribute non-paper forms of its catalogue;
the telecommunications and terminal equipment infrastructure necessary for clients to have access to non-paper catalogues;
the conditions in which clients would use or even prefer non-paper catalogues.
In order to evaluate these issues, we will:
conduct interviews with mail-order businesses;
review the results of similar studies and tests in Europe and in the United States;
select and interview a target population of customers;
construct several distribution scenarios and evaluate them.
From a technical point of view, advanced database systems, techniques for acquisition, structuring, storing, and retrieval of multimedia assets, communications solutions, and end-user equipment will be dealt with. Issues of standards compliance and open systems will be addressed. From the results of the requirements analysis and the survey of the state-of-the-art systems in this business field, several possible solutions will be described in detail and evaluated.
The main focus of the pilot application will be on the distributor and the end-user and their relationship. It will cover aspects of advanced user-interface design and navigational aids adapted to the target residential market.
The work is structured in four main building blocks and the Project Management: Requirements Analysis and Survey of state-of-the art Systems and Field Trials, leading to the development of an Application Concept, and the final Evaluation and Viability Analysis of the pilot application.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
LE11 1RG Loughborough