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Seeing is Buying

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Retailers seeking ways to strengthen their web presence are incorporating more rich shopping experiences and social media into their sites. In 2011, Fluid partnered with software R&D provider GlobalLogic to develop and implement solutions like Fluid Experience, which allows shoppers to change colors on products, rotate them, zoom and see multiple views. Fluid says such capabilities can increase conversions by up to 40 percent.

JELD-WEN, one of the largest door and window manufacturers in the world, sells its products through a number of retailers, including Home Depot and Lowe’s. While it doesn’t directly participate in e-commerce, it plays a large part in developing the platform its retail partners use.

Rob Jellesed, director of Internet sales and marketing for JELD-WEN, says the company’s previous website was “a manufacturing-driven site written by our operations and plant personnel. It was too technical and distant from what our consumers wanted. We wanted to be able to speak directly to them.”

With Fluid’s help, JELD-WEN built a new site that presents doors and windows in all the configurations — up to 15,000 — that can be made with each product. It spent six months conducting interviews and working with focus groups to fully understand the door and window sales process. In many cases, JELD-WEN found that the selection isn’t made just by consumers – designers, architects and general contractors can play roles, as well.

“We wanted all of the decision makers to be able to visualize the design, change the color of the sash, frame material and other things,” Jellesed says.

Through Fluid Configure, JELD-WEN can simplify the shopping experience for its complex product offerings by allowing for direct customization on the website.

“No other door or window manufacturer has come close to offering the kind of service we can,” Jellesed says. “In real time, you can have different people build the doors or windows, change the style, the color, the finish and share it with the group.”

Ease of use
Fashion retailer Isaay.com started working with Fluid a year ago and recently launched a new website that brings the latest trends and products straight to consumers’ laptops and phones. Vice president of operations Jennifer Conforti says six different views are available for each product on Isaay.com. Shoppers can also select and change colors of shoes, clothes and accessories.

The new site even has features specifically requested by customers, such as “My Loves,” a virtual closet wish list, and “The Trend,” a video blog. The expanded trend area also features look books, outfit pages and a designer boutique.

“Because [customers] don’t have the opportunity to touch and feel the product, we wanted to give them as much visual information as possible,” Conforti says. “Fluid Experience gave us the opportunity to do that.”

As a result, Isaay.com has seen dramatic increases in traffic and conversions, but the biggest advantage was the ease of use on the back end.
“It’s the easiest visual software I have ever worked with,” says Isaay art director Holly Machacek. “You just upload the files to the ftp server, do a couple of clicks and it automatically maps the images to the product based on the names.”

Unique outsourcing
Fluid’s products are the result of a unique style of outsourcing that allowed the company to build its staff with limited resources. CEO Kent Deverell says working with GlobalLogic to secure offshore resources allows it to offer cost-effective solutions; Fluid employs virtual team members in Argentina that connect via phone, chat and the cloud. Deverell says Fluid now has 10 full-time staff members working in the Argentine office.

“We wanted them to be a virtual part of our office here in San Francisco,” Deverell says. “They are a real part of our team and we view them as an extension of who we are. It has really helped us build out our product suite and do a lot more for our customers.”

GlobalLogic CMO Mike DeVries says that, for a company based on the West Coast, Argentina is a “near shore” location. With English-speaking resources that operate near the same time zone, Devries says it offers a “seamless” experience that allows Fluid to create and customize those products for retailers.

The social connection
Fluid Social brings integrated chat, Facebook functionality, SMS, e-mail and social network sharing to e-commerce sites, allowing users to easily share products. On average, Fluid Social users have increased time onsite by 147 percent and product views by 59 percent. Deverell says it can help increase brand awareness, drive higher conversions, increase engagement and boost traffic.

“You can’t just put up a website anymore and sell a few products,” he says. “You need people to be able to engage your experience and interact with your products in social media, anytime, anywhere.”

As competition between and among online retailers grows stiffer, e-commerce sites must constantly reinvent themselves and stay ahead of the technology curve, DeVries says. Social media is playing a major role here: When consumers talk about products online, they share those comments with their entire social network. Boosting a website’s social media presence and capabilities gives consumers the ability to market a company’s products for them.

“People want to talk about what they are buying and they want to interact together around that,” DeVries says. “The winners are going to be those retailers that take that whole experience and replicate it online.”

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