Flexfire LEDs began as many manufacturers do: its founder and CEO Brent Mauriello researched a technology for lighting products that was relatively new and realized he could customize it for a variety of uses. The technology was the light-emitting diode, or LED, a device that converts electrical energy into light. LEDs are solid-state semiconductors—no moving parts and no filaments or gasses as are used in traditional light bulbs.
In 2010, Mauriello envisioned applying the technology to lighting sources, specifically strip lights. “We sell a flexible strip light—a linear LED product you can cut and customize and place almost anywhere,” Mauriello says. “LEDs let you put lights where they couldn’t go before.”
An LED strip light is a flexible circuit board that’s populated with LEDs, according to information on the company’s website, Flexfireleds.com. That information is part of extensive content on the site devoted to how the technology works, how to use it, where it can be used and other information.
When Flexfire began making its products, most major lighting manufacturers hadn’t moved into strip lighting; Mauriello took advantage of the opportunity to begin educating his business and consumer customers about LED technology, he says.
Flexfire developed content focusing on education, enhancing the online customer experience and adding value. It relied on online reviews and customer-submitted photos to build awareness of the company and trust among customers.
Making a quality product that was easy to work with and install, along with extensive educational content, cemented relations with its customers and sparked a surge in sales, Mauriello says. A steady ramp-up of production and complementary educational content helped greow sales by 832% from 2013 to 2015, he says. Total sales hit about $5 million in 2017, up about 30% from the prior year, a rate he expects to reach in 2018 as well. That would put 2018 sales at about $6.5 million.
Flexfire’s main customers are commercial and include hotels, restaurants and retail stores, and original equipment manufacturers who incorporate LED lighting into such products as vending machines. Flexfire also sells to consumers. Half of its 2017 sales were business-to-business, accounting for about 85% of revenue, Mauriello says.
Flexfire has used an e-commerce platform from BigCommerce since 2009. The BigCommerce platform serves as a hub that connects other software, including Active Campaign for email marketing and Fishbowl inventory management technology for QuickBooks financial accounting software. BigCommerce enabled Flexfire to build and customize the website without writing any code, Mauriello says.
Flexfire is now upgrading its website, organizing the educational content and adding new products. “What made us popular is education, but it’s scattered and we need to reorganize it,” Mauriello says.
The site now offers prepackaged kits enabling customers to install under-cabinet lighting. “We’re investing in the website and a B2B portal to enable customers to solve a lot of their own problems, such as those who need a quote and ask if we can calculate things like voltage drop,” he says. Voltage drop refers to the rate electric voltage declines as the length of a light strip increases.
Flexfire also is developing a mobile app for customers to use on job sites. The mobile app and some of the other changes are expected to roll out before or during the third quarter.
In the past B2B customers made purchases on the website using credit cards, but Flexfire has developed a commercial program for designers and architects. For business clients coming to the website for the first time, Flexfire engages them via online chat and assigns them to a project developer. The customer then has a dedicated service representative and can establish an account to buy with purchase orders, in addition to using credit cards and checks, Mauriello says.
Tustin, Calif.-based Flexfire sells to customers in about 50 countries, but does most of its business in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore, Colombia, Spain and United Kingdom, he says.
Flexfire will continue to develop and expand its online content, to keep customers informed and coming back. “One of the barriers to buying our products is understanding their differences,” Mauriello says. “They all sort of look the same, so customers need to know watts, voltage drop and other details. We want to show them how to find the correct products and lower the barrier to understanding our products.”
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