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Zulily looks to responsive Web design to cure mobile growing pains

Zulily, a flash sales site that is at the forefront of Facebook’s leveraging of its Messenger service for one-to-one business-customer relations, has relaunched its Web site with a responsive design to repair a customer experience disrupted by explosive growth on mobile.

The redesign, driven by customer feedback, features a customized homepage, cleaner images and the highlighting of new products and relevant sales. Zulily’s multi-layered chat service on Messenger, announced earlier this spring, remains in testing without a definite date for its rollout being  announced.

“We want to be where our customers are shopping – whether it’s via a mobile device or desktop,” said Matt Francis, lead architect for Zulily, Seattle.  “With the majority of our North American orders being placed on a mobile device our daily focus on freshness and discovery makes mobile an incredibly strong channel for engaging with our customers.

“The new responsive Web site design provides every user the experience of seamless browsing, discovery and enhanced visibility to make the accessible entertainment of shopping on zulily an exceptional, user-friendly encounter each and every time,” he said.

Responsive interface
With 55 percent of North American orders placed via mobile devices, the site redesign incorporates a responsive interface that works across all devices, from desktop to mobile Web site.

Desktop version of site.

Darrell Cavens, Zulily’s president and CEO, said during a conference call to discuss the company’s first-quarter earnings release that the site redesign will improve the customer experience by reducing order to ship times while leading to stronger supplier relationships and better product access.

“In the first quarter, through interviews with our customers as well as ongoing tests, we also came to believe that we have over assorted the site, making it difficult for some customers to shop and diminishing the customer experience,” Mr. Cavens said.

“On customer experience with our rapid growth, the lead times for shipping to our customers became too long and resulted in us falling short of our customers’ expectations.”

The responsive design also will allow faster load times while freeing the company to innovate more with its mobile Web offerings and push updates faster across its platforms.

In the first quarter, 55 percent of Zulily’s global orders came from mobile, up from 50 percent in the fourth quarter.

Zulily, along with Everlane, attracted intense media interest in March when it was announced that the companies were looking to Messenger to help them connect with customers on a more personal level.

Consumers at checkout will have the option to receive their order confirmations and shipping information through Messenger. They then can start a real-time dialogue with the business or modify their orders.

The businesses’ service teams will be able to support customers through managing multiple Messenger chats at once, collaborating with one another to solve a customer’s issue, and accessing chat history to easily continue a conversation after a break.

“A very small group of Zulily customers have been randomly selected to test this new feature,” Mr. Francis said.

Both businesses see the partnership as a way to have a free-flowing dialogue with customers, since Everlane has a large number of customers on Facebook and Messenger and zulily gets most of its North American orders from mobile, The Street reported.

A Facebook spokeswoman downplayed speculation that the social networking site’s broadening of Messenger’s reach to increase shopper convenience is a prelude to a bigger move into mobile commerce, despite its partnering with Everlane and zulily.

Revenue windfall
The move nevertheless focuses attention on the huge revenue windfall that messaging players would collect if efforts aimed at letting businesses connect with their best customers and fans on mobile were to win broad adoption.

Speeding up shipping times via responsive design.

“The technology behind the newly designed Web site underscores the new and fresh products that have helped make Zulily the unique, discovery-based online retailer that it is today,” Mr. Francis said.

“The release of our newly designed Web site is just one of several initiatives this year that will allow us to improve the daily experience and keep our customer engaged and excited each and every time she visits.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York