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Designing a Lifestyle Site That Sells—an eCommerce Case Study read more

Since leaving the runways of Paris and Milan, supermodel Frederique van der Wal has surpassed her original level of success. She’s emerged as a high-profile businesswoman and “national institution” in her native Holland. In 2015, Van der Wal brought her floral business Frederique’s Choice—an established brand throughout Europe—to America. After an extensive search, Frederique and her team chose e9digital to build their North American site.

Frederique’s Search

“Like my flowers, I don’t like it when style becomes too complicated, it needs to be real and not too predictable.” Frederique van der Wal, profiled in the April 2015 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

At a spectacular New York rooftop launch event in late September, Frederique thanked her family and her New York team as well as e9digital, A&E Networks, and Havas Worldwide public relations for our roles in launching her North American brand in spectacular fashion, asking the enthusiastic crowd to “Raise a glass to life in full bloom.”

e9digital is thrilled to have been a part of the team that helped make the North American launch of Frederique’s Choice so successful. The case study below explains the process of building an eCommerce site that drives sales without compromising the client’s vision.

Aesthetic Ambition

“Like my flowers, I don’t like it when style becomes too complicated, it needs to be real and not too predictable.”
Frederique van der Wal, profiled in the April 2015 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Most e9 websites involve updating and refining the image of a largely faceless business. Frederique’s Choice, however, is built around the reputation of its namesake, Van der Wal, a recognized personality with a sophisticated image. So this eCommerce site needed to be both highly functional and reflect her image of uncomplicated glamour, says e9 Executive Creative Director Jina Kiem.

Based in Tribeca and led by CEO Heidi Diamond, Frederique’s US team was determined to avoid two potential traps—one, settling for a “safe” but uninspired flower delivery site, with dozens of thumbnail images offering similar arrangements for every occasion, and two, ending up with either a generic celebrity-based lifestyle site or one with a motif reminiscent of Martha Stewart Living.

Instead, they wanted a lifestyle site with a distinct look and identity, and one that reflected the founder’s vision better than their existing eCommerce site in Holland.

“They weren’t crazy about how the site looked…or performed,” says Kiem. “The Dutch site was too much like 1-800 Flowers. They wanted this new one to encourage Americans to buy flowers on a regular basis, not just for special occasions. The big goal for U.S. subscribers was to persuade them to buy a bouquet every month.”

First Steps

Our initial assignment was to design a splash page, a teaser for their upcoming U.S. launch.

“Through this process, we came to understand what they’re about,” says Kiem. “They were striving for a look of restrained elegance.”

As an initial branding exploratory, we pushed boundaries while exploring options for their new American look. After experimenting with different typefaces and bolder colors found in their secondary color palette, the client led e9’s design team back to Frederique’s primary fonts and colors, a subdued selection of white, burgundy and two shades of grey.

Responding to our suggestions for a more colorful look, Van der Wal thought the new colors were too soft. She said, “It’s too much lace, I’m missing the leather.”

A Unique Look

After guiding us back to her primary color palette, the Frederique team listened closely to our innovative design ideas and fell in love with the new direction e9’s team was proposing.

“We presented a mosaic layout, partially inspired by the Pinterest site. Now, images pop up while you scroll down the page. It’s a unique look for an eCommerce company,” says Kiem.

A Strong Foundation

With eCommerce sites, good design is important, but a strong wireframe that crafts an effortless shopping experience is essential.

e9’s UI expert and Developer Ben Blodgett adapted Frederique’s business model to the U.S. market and the ways Americans shop online, while working closely with her New York office and her group of programmers in The Netherlands.

“Frederique’s team fully appreciated eCommerce, from their experience with the Dutch site,” he says. “They understood hot topics on eCommerce conversions.”

A Powerful Sales Tool

The biggest challenge was to create a site that was both attractive and effective. “They wanted something outside the standard eCommerce experience, which usually features a row and column layout,” Blodgett says. “You have to be careful balancing creativity with the sensibility that this is still a shop. People can’t be confused about what type of site they’re visiting.”

He adds that Frederique’s Choice has a “complicated buying model,” because they’re encouraging customers to purchase a recurring subscription, rather than just make a one-time purchase.

For shoppers sending multiple arrangements, there’s also the challenge of adding a unique address for each product.

Drawing on years of experience guiding web users through the online shopping experience—he’s created eCommerce sites that sell everything from music and T-shirts to green energy and heavy machinery—Blodgett was able to work through these challenges to optimize the shopping cart experience, without compromising its aesthetic.

Love in Bloom

“We want to try and change people to become biophiliacs.”
Frederique van der Wal

The website is impressive. Frederique’s team is especially pleased with the image-driven mosaic design, which accentuates the website’s lifestyle feel, without detracting from its primary function as an online store.

This mosaic reinforces Van der Wal’s ambition to convert occasional shoppers into committed subscribers who believe flowers and plants play an essential role in their daily lives.

“We will be doing subscriptions, but you can also just order a one-off bouquet or even just a single stem. We want to try and change people to become biophiliacs (which addresses the instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems including plants),” she says in a recent Harper’s Bazaar article.

Ultimately, Frederique’s Choice benefited from e9’s approach so much, they’ve revised their European eCommerce site to resemble the one we designed for America.

Trusting Our Instincts

And, with decades of combined creative experience under our belts, we intuitively know when a design concept is working, or missing its mark.

This project showcases two of e9’s great strengths. As experienced digital professionals, we understand the importance of listening to our clients and incorporating their desires and needs. However, we also know when to advocate for our creative direction — but always with the client’s business objectives in mind.

Our judgment is sound for two key reasons: research and experience. We start every project by asking probing questions (in writing and in person) in order to build up a true understanding of a client before we begin the design process.

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