E-Color , San Francisco (www.ecolor.com)
Products: True Internet Color; Optimal Color Value
How they work: The True Internet Color software and product images are stored on and served from E-Color servers. The marketer installs an interface to the E-Color system on its Web server. Site visitors go through a one-time, three-step set-up program to calibrate their monitors based on an RBG (red/green/blue) color scale. The information is collected and stored in a cookie that is sent to the merchant’s Web server with each page request. Page requests are then channeled to the E-Color server, which delivers a color-corrected image to the shopper’s monitor.
Optimal Color Value will enable merchants to display color-corrected images for shoppers who don’t wish to go through the online calibration set-up; color correction will be based on optimized matches determined by the aggregate data E-Color has collected from users who have gone through the tune-up process.
Availability: True Internet Color is currently available; Optimal Color Value is expected to be available by June.
Pricing: For True Internet Color, monthly $1,500 site license plus additional usage fees, if applicable, based on site traffic, number of images served, etc.
Pros: As the earliest solution to market, True Internet Color has a major lead in development and adoption. Marketers don’t need to buy additional software, so maintenance and cost of entry are low. The tools work with most major Web authoring tools and color management systems. And Optimal Color Value will enable merchants to display color-corrected images even if a shopper doesn’t go through the set-up process.
Cons: Since images are stored on E-Color’s servers, site visitors may experience delays in seeing images displayed on their computers. And will shoppers be willing to go through the set-up process?
Imation, Oakdale, MN (www.verifi.net)
How it works: Color-correction software and merchandise images are stored on the merchant’s Web server. Shoppers go through a one-time set-up process that collects information about the characteristics of their monitor, graphics card, etc.; that information is stored in a cookie that is sent to the marketer’s server each time the shopper requests an image. The color-correction software retrieves the image, custom-corrects based on the information in the cookie, and delivers the image to the shopper’s monitor.
Availability: Commercial availability was expected in March.
Pricing: Fees are based on usage; typical site license would start at $2,000 a month, though it could cost more depending on site traffic, number of images served, etc.
Pros: Local image storage theoretically means faster display of images, corrected in real-time, on shopper’s monitor. It works with most color-management systems that catalogers may already be using for print.
Cons: Local software and image storage could require marketer to purchase additional hardware and incur higher maintenance costs. And will shoppers be willing to go through the set-up process?
Pantone, Carlstadt, NJ (www.therightcolor.com)
Product: TheRightColor, a set of tools based on Pantone’s industry-standard color specification system; the tools include Color Shopping Guide, Swatch Generator, Internet Calibration Servlet, and Color Chooser.
How it works: The Color Shopping Guide is a color-swatch book that shoppers buy from the merchant or receive as part of a site promotion (the manner of distribution is up to the marketer). Marketers post the Pantone color number along with other product information so that shoppers can refer to the true color in their swatch books.
The Swatch Generator is an online application that lets shoppers see the color in various lighting conditions via a pop-up window. The Internet Calibration Servlet will work similarly to E-Color’s True Internet Color and Imation’s Verifi. The Color Chooser enables shoppers to browse merchandise by using the Pantone color numbering system (if they have the swatch book).
Availability: Color Shopping Guide and Swatch Generator are available now; Internet Calibration Servlet is scheduled for availability this year; Color Chooser is currently available as a business-to-business tool, with a consumer version scheduled to bow this year.
Pricing: Annual licensing fee charged on a customer-by-customer basis.
Pros: Designed to work seamlessly with the Pantone Textile System. System is based on industry-recognized color codes. The solution cuts across multiple sales channels.
Cons: If merchandise is not manufactured according to the Pantone color specs, the best color a user will see onscreen is the nearest match to the Pantone system. The Internet Calibration Servlet is lagging behind the competition in availability. And will shoppers really be willing to use a swatch book for buying clothing and cosmetics?