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Technology provider, design group marry to meet emerging trends

The Internet is rapidly evolving from information sites with nice graphics to commerce engines building a sense of community among users. To better serve clients’ needs and facilitate emerging trends, two Jackson entities have come together.

It’s a marriage of sorts between regional advertising agency the GodwinGroup and In Focus Technologies, a functionality provider, which brings design and technology under the same roof. The two companies have had a relationship that began soon after In Focus was formed six years ago. They recently reached an agreement for In Focus to operate as a Godwin company.

“We are not a division of the GodwinGroup, but for day-to-day purposes, we work like a division,” said Joseph McArthur, CEO of In Focus Technologies. “It’s a win/win situation. They can offer us so much that goes along with the software development we’ve been doing.”

Seeing convergence

Philip Shirley, president and CEO of the GodwinGroup, said In Focus will retain its identity but the “partnership of sorts” will provide benefits to clients. The agency has been watching the evolution of the Internet and the convergence of four factors.

“Those are the convergence of marketing communications, management of customer relationships, commerce — actually doing something — and as an information tool,” he said. “In the highest, best use, it’s all four of those things. It can also have a sense of community and in some cases deliver products.”

Glenn Owens, vice president and director of interactive for the GodwinGroup, believes uniting the two companies will bring advantages to clients by providing sophisticated shopping engines and databases in addition to eye-catching sites.

“We’re seeing more functionality. Sites are becoming more complex. They’re not just delivering information but have more inter-activity functionality,” he said. “We want to make the experience on the Internet the best it can be, and coming together was the logical step. We’re seeing companies in other areas do the same thing.”

For example…

Owens cites the example of baseball bat manufacturer Louisville Slugger, a long-time Godwin client. “They demonstrated an understanding of what their customers would like to do online,” he said. “On their sites, coaches can create their own Web sites and post photos of their teams. They also put an instructional component on the site, and these services are provided free.”

It’s this Internet function of bringing people with the same interests together that Shirley refers to as a sense of community. “It’s an important point to get value from products, and they’re creating a sense of community on their Web sites,” he said. “That’s where the Internet is going, and it can happen on corporate sites, too. It helps companies manage relationships.”

Providing data and information is great, Owens says, but creating value is where advertising clients are going because their customers are going in that direction. “It’s becoming part of how the everyday person goes about his normal life,” he added. “We’re doing this to get ahead of the curve.”

Shirley gives two examples from his own life. On a recent morning before heading out to work, he went online to purchase new sunglasses and check the weather and wave height for a weekend fishing trip.

Thinking of what online activity can do for businesses, McArthur gives the example of Trinity Apparel. “This client has a successful storefront and they make and sell suits all over the country because of the Internet,” he said. “The software we created allows them to track their product every step of the way from the fabric in Italy to making the suits in China.”

‘Exciting team’

The team of In Focus Technologies and GodwinGroup are often asked what they can do, but Owens says the real question is what can you not do. “The design process of how the site flows is important,” he said. “Now I can go to Joseph and say let’s make it like this and we can go to the client together.”

To which McArthur adds, “We have an exciting team. If we can imagine it, we can make it happen.”

As the industry matures, the agency’s research department can track tendencies and behavior of Internet users. “We know how many clicks people will make on a site,” Shirley said. “That’s another reason we need to marry design with technology. We want the least amount of frustration for customers. We have to make it an easy experience for people.”

Since January of 2001, the number of active Internet sites has jumped from 12 million to 48 million, according to McArthur; and120 million site names have been purchased.

“The stuff we see as innovative will be the things customers expect in the future,” Owens said. “The generation coming along now can do it all.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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