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Redefining Commerce, April 2015: Firebox, ‘Not For Everyone’

firebox.com homepage

So far in our Redefining Commerce series, we’ve focused on visually beautiful websites that blend content and commerce seamlessly. But Firebox.com is a new breed of commerce site. As their tagline suggests, it’s “not for everyone.” It pushes every boundary, and isn’t scared to be offensive or off-color, with products like Super Magnetic Thinking Putty, an electric blue substance that is displayed as a bizarre, somewhat questionable animated GIF. Or these Freak Masks, which are customizable and wearable, and freakishly wink at you when you scroll past them on the homepage. A personal favorite around here was the “classy” Wine Bag, a cardboard contraption that takes boxed wine up a notch on the scale of sophistication… if that’s even possible.

firebox website

From the first time we discovered this site, we were caught in fits of giggles -- a couple of (smart, capable) grown adults sitting in the common space at our Massachusetts-based office overtaken by crippling laughter…. and constantly asking: What the heck??? Who says work can’t be fun?!

The appeal here is surprisingly simple. Firebox doesn’t do anything particularly outlandish with their site, but they do include a few key features that really set them apart -- like using animated GIFS on their homepage, and the simple and clear way they lay out their products. Their expert combination of pithy copy, strong product visuals, frequently changing content, a carefully curated collection of products, variation in how they display products, and a well defined brand voice help them to deliver an experience that far exceeds expectations. They’ve perfected the art of product marketing, which has unparalleled value to a brand.

firebox homepage

Perhaps most notable about the Firebox website is something that many retailers seek to create -- an experience that keeps the user on-site longer, looking at more products, and ultimately converting at a higher dollar value. Their ridiculous products and incredible merchandising push the envelope on many fronts, which creates an irresistible browsing experience that keeps users clicking.

Their homepage content is displayed in an easy-to-consume format, with clean blocks of content in a stylized grid, each representing a different product. What looks like it should be a heavy, slow-to-load homepage, laden with various types of media, is actually pretty fast (according to Pingdom, Firebox.com loads in 2.12 seconds -- faster than 69 percent of websites tested). The content contained in each block is different from the next -- some show product GIFs -- rolling fur balls, glowing mugs, “Handicorns” -- while others show videos, static copy, or graphic product images.

The product pages, too, have all of the necessary commerce site integrations we hope to see: social buttons, product descriptions, detailed information, related items, and tags.

firebox product page

Over the course of several days browsing the site, not only did the products displayed on the homepage change frequently (both in terms of what was served to me and the actual location on the page), but the site layout and links as well. The top navigation was one notable place where changes occurred, which led us to believe that some serious testing is going on behind the scenes at Firebox. Sometimes we were delivered the “NSFW” link in the top nav (NSFW meaning ‘Not Suitable For Work’ -- thanks Urban Dictionary!), and other times we weren’t. The more I clicked around the site, the more personalized my content was given my browsing behaviors. That’s pretty savvy business practice, right there!

firebox navigation menus

What’s Working:

  • Edgy brand voice and messaging. Not every brand can get away with this kind of copy, but Firebox can, and does. A big part of the appeal of their site has nothing to do with the technology or backend system, but instead their sheer genius in copywriting.
  • Super simple and intuitive navigation. Products on Firebox.com are easy to browse, find, and add to cart from any touchpoint onsite. A cumbersome online experience can often get in the way, even if a retailer has great content. If the retailer makes it easy to interact AND delivers great content... well then, the consumer has no reason to look elsewhere.
  • Content integration. Firebox.com doesn’t segregate their content from their products. Instead, every single product page has its own unique, compelling content. The integration is so seamless, it negates the need for something like a blog, because every single item has its own complete story to tell. All of the items come together to tell one story of one super personable brand with a rather NSFW side.
  • Merchandising Animated Gifs. The use of animated GIFs across the Firebox site as a merchandising tool is genius. Not only are animations more interactive, but they’re much more eye catching, and apt to draw a customer in.

This blog series - Redefining Commerce - highlights retail brands that are elevating traditional online commerce experiences, pushing the boundaries of what it means to be an online retailer, and delivering unparalleled consumer experiences.

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