June 27, 2013, 11:05 AM

Home furnishings retailer Hayneedle uses software to increase its image-making efficiency

The retailer automates image production using technology from Equilibrium.

Amy Dusto

Associate Editor

Lead Photo

Hayneedle Inc., which operates home furnishings and décor web site Hayneedle.com along with such niche e-commerce sites, as Hammocks.com and Cribs.com, would be unable to keep the millions of images it manages up to date without technology from automated image-optimization vendor Equilibrium, says Brian Sullivan, user experience architect at Hayneedle.

“With hundreds of niche sites and over a million product photos, it's easy to see how managing multiple files for every photo just isn't realistic, especially when it comes to changing site designs and needing additional sizes,” Sullivan says.

Hayneedle runs Equilibrium’s MediaRich software on its servers. The software optimizes and serves images on Hayneedle’s product pages, promotional banners, logos and anywhere else there is a graphic that the retailer would otherwise design using a product like Adobe Systems Inc.’s Photoshop, Sullivan says.

To use MediaRich, Hayneedle loads one master image into the server, then the software automatically adjusts it to fit the size and graphics properties needed for its use anywhere on the site, he says, “from the smallest thumbnail to the largest image on the product page, so the customer can pan and zoom to see every detail.”

The system also can customize the color, font, text and other visual features of an image, as well as combine multiple images or logos into a banner, Sullivan says. “This all happens in the blink of the eye without a designer ever having to open Photoshop to create anything,” he says.

Unlike Photoshop, MediaRich requires programming skills, but Sullivan says anyone who knows how to write JavaScript code and design images can quickly begin using it to create all sorts of graphics. For example, he used to spend more than eight hours per day creating graphics, but now he spends about three hours on one project, which he needs to update only once every few weeks, he says. “I was maybe able to do 10 to 20 of something in a day, but now the number isn't a factor.” He spends his extra time working on other projects instead.

Hayneedle also uses MediaRich to create personalized graphics in e-mails and on site, and customized banners for its affiliates, Sullivan says. For example, MediaRich can update images for a customer viewing them on site to show her, for example, how an item might look in a particular color or style, or with her personalized engraving on it, he says.

The software can generate 10,000 or more unique banners for all its affiliates after Hayneedle sets up MediaRich to create one template banner, he says.  That feat would be impossible to do manually, he adds. “It may take a couple hours to design, approve and load a few banners, but with MediaRich I can create endless permutations.”

Sullivan declines to share exactly how much Hayneedle pays for MediaRich, but says it is a fraction of the cost of competitor Adobe’s Scene7 software. The software pricing depends on the number of servers on which a retailer needs to run it and how many images it manages, he says.

Apparel retailer Bluefly Inc., which also uses MediaRich, says the optimized images have led to consumers putting more items into their shopping carts, fewer returns and increased customer satisfaction, says Marty Keane, vice president of product development. “With products such as apparel, the ability to see product detail is a critical factor to increase sales and minimize returns,” he says.

Hayneedle is No. 84 in the 2013 edition of the Internet Retailer Top 500. Bluefly is No. 206.

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