August 31, 2011, 9:47 AM

The Right Fit

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Once Hunter Fan understood what it needed, it settled on a content system from Ektron Inc. that could be easily integrated with the accounting and manufacturing software. The Ektron system also accommodated Hunter Fan's approval process. While multiple staff members can manage content and several brand and product managers are allowed to update content, Gallman must approve changes before they go live.

The system also makes it simple for Hunter Fan to add multimedia or interactive content. "We needed to be able to leverage the system and highlight the photography pieces so that shoppers can blow an image up to the size of their monitor or to zoom in on the fan," says Gallman. "We want people to see the texture of the wood and how the color matches other items in their house. That's crucial in bridging the gap between what an in-store experience is like and what the experience is like online."

Looking forward

Technology—as well as the types of content consumers want and expect—is rapidly changing, making it difficult to anticipate the types of content a retailer might require, says RSR's Rowen. Hunter Fan deals with that issue by keeping its ties to Ektron flexible, says Gallman. It maintains a one-year contract with an option to renew every year. When a new need arises, it can be built that into the next contract.

Haus takes a similar approach. After having overseen the implementation of new systems at four sites in the past five years, she's learned to reserve room in her budget for near-term changes. And even before she and her colleagues spend time investigating whether those changes make sense, she calls Bridgeline to ask for a cost estimate. "That can save us time and energy," she says. "Some things I ask about I think will be bank busters and they are. Other times, they're actually not too expensive and we can pursue them right away."

Staying within budget is crucial, she says. She once paid for a set of nine web content templates for rendering a home page but came to realize she needed only one to get the presentation she needed. "We paid for it and never used it," she says. "We began using one template and stuck with it. But the cost of those templates kept us from making other changes."

As content becomes an increasingly important way for web merchants to make their sites stand out, retailers can't afford not to be able to make the changes they need. "If you don't keep up," Rowen says, "you'll be left behind."

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