Back in April I wrote about the explosion in using widgets to add functionality and interactivity to Web pages (Widgets Reproducing Like Rabbits in 2007 ).
Widgets are part of a bigger trend: the cut and paste Web . Instead of content being tied to one particular Web page, content is increasingly moved around and made available wherever you as the reader or consumer, want it.
A variation of the widget placed on a Web page of your choosing, is the desktop widget. The desktop widget sits on your computer desktop — it’s not even on a Web page at all. It usually looks like a little box on your screen (see the example of DueMaternity.com’s  widget above).
Desktop widgets allow you as the consumer to get updated information from a vendor or Web publisher, without launching a browser window. The widget is connected to the Web, and pulls in data and information from the Web to automatically update the content in the widget. You can click on the widget and be taken directly to the vendor or publisher’s site.
In the beginning, desktop widgets were mostly the realm of early tech adopters or for apps like getting weather updates. But increasingly, marketers and online retailers are catching on to desktop widgets. And so are their customers.
Internet Retailer magazine’s lead article this month is about online retailers using desktop widgets to stay top of mind with past customers.
From the retailers’ and marketers’ perspective, desktop widgets push out information about special offers and updates to be seen by consumers who have the widgets on their desktops. Some retailers are using desktop widgets as replacements for email marketing.
As the article notes, to be successful a widget must provide information that the consumer finds of value. In other words, it has to be more than just a novelty. That means, as a marketer you have to figure out what your customers would value enough that they’d be willing to download the widget and keep it on their desktops.
Now here’s the small business angle: with the help of the free widget-building platforms available today (such as SpringWidgets), even startups and small businesses can afford to create custom widgets for marketing purposes. One of the custom widgets described in the Internet Retailer article cost just $600 to create but is projected to return $75,000 in sales before year end.
Usage numbers for retail desktop widgets are still relatively small. Most vendors in the article report downloads in the “thousands.” But interest appears to be growing, and so are the ROI numbers from desktop widgets.