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Blockbuster 3.0

5/1/2008 is no stranger to change, whether it is self-motivated or adapting to an evolving marketplace. And it seems the movie giant is at it again as it launches its Blockbuster 3.0 initiative.

Jen Dineen, director of merchandising and content, Blockbuster Online, explained the company’s evolution during the eTail 2008 conference, Feb. 12-13 in Palm Desert, Calif.

Online for more than a decade, Blockbuster revamped its presence in 2004 to support its Blockbuster By Mail service. As the retailer learned its way with the new site, Web 2.0 was already starting to evolve. Blockbuster made the strategic decision to embrace the tool to support user-generated content, specifically online reviews and ratings.

As personalization and interaction become increasingly important to consumers, the company continues to make its site more engaging for subscribers of its Blockbuster By Mail and Blockbuster Total Access initiatives, a service that sends movies in the mail and allows members to receive free in-store exchanges.

“We are in our third generation and it’s better than ever,” Dineen said during the session, “Optimizing ROI For Web 2.0 Retail Technologies.”

Blockbuster’s newest wave of upgrades consists of a “ratings” application, or widget, that appears next to a movie description posted on the site. But like other Blockbuster initiatives, this one took some work.

Originally, users decided if they wanted to add the film to their order queue and have it mailed to their home, then the application showed how many stars the average user has given the film. When users move a cursor over the application, the blue stars become golden to indicate that they can rate the film as well.

“Although this was a great feature for us, some visitors didn’t understand that the application was both informational and interactive,” Dineen said.

As a result, Blockbuster placed a “My Ratings” application next to the “Member Ratings” to differentiate the two options.

Blockbuster is also working to adjust its “reviews” application to be less of a free-form platform and include more multiple-choice and pro/con questions.

“This will lead users into creating a review without having them write something complicated,” Dineen said. “People hate to write when they don’t have to. The easier you can make the review writing process, the better the adoption is going to be across the board.”

The site also recently launched a “My Blockbuster” page that provides an inbox with personalized content for the user. Messages inform the subscriber when a movie is shipped and asks if they want to review, rate or recommend it to a friend.

“I suggest telling customers why you want them to do something,” Dineen advised attendees. “In our case, we conveyed that it’s fun to rate and recommend movies, but made it clear that it also provides significant information to us.

Although many users will rate the Oscar award-winning movie “Crash” with five stars, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has rented it. In response, Blockbuster added the “The Top Ten Movies Added to Queues Yesterday” feature in November to show users what people are really watching.

“This list actively influences consumer behavior,” Dineen said. “The ratio of page views to what people are adding to their queue far succeeds any other feature on the site. We are seeing 2.7 adds-to-queue per page view of this list, compared to 0.45 across the site.”

Blockbuster is making its site more engaging for its users, but it’s also looking to reach consumers interacting on other sites. The company recently launched an application on Facebook, called Movie Clique. It enables users to search movie titles and create lists of movies they want to see, movies they’ve already seen and all-time favorites. They can also post ratings and reviews and share them with friends.

Users who subscribe to the online rental service can also rent movies directly from Blockbuster without leaving the Facebook Web site.

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