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Posted on Sun, Feb 21, 2010 : 5:39 a.m.

Mobile Web demand leading to growth for Ann Arbor-based Fry Inc.

By Nathan Bomey

Web development and marketing firm Fry Inc., bolstered by resiliency in the online shopping industry, plans to increase its staff in Ann Arbor by about 10 percent.

Fry is smoothly navigating the turbulent economy by hitching its business model to mid-size and major retailers that recognize the importance of maintaining vibrant and effective Web sites.

Rudy Pataro headshot.jpg

Fry Inc. President Rudy Pataro

Photo courtesy of Fry Inc.

Fry, which employs about 110 workers in Ann Arbor and 300 throughout the country, has job openings for 10 to 12 workers in Ann Arbor and 25 nationwide.

Fry, founded by entrepreneur David Fry in 1994, was acquired in August 2008 by Columbia, Md.-based Micros Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: MCRS), which has about $868 million in revenue.

Fry President Rudy Pataro said the firm has been hiring about 4 to 6 people a month for several months - largely a response to growing demand from the firm’s existing retail clients.

“It’s a rapidly growing, changing field,” he said. “So it requires a lot of investment to stay current and stay on top of the heap.”

Pataro said retailers are beginning to recognize that rapid growth in Web sales doesn’t come easy anymore. The firm’s retail clients include firms like Godiva, Vera Bradley and Express.

Online retailers reported an encouraging 4 percent uptick in sales during the 2009 holiday season, according to comScore. But that's down from much higher levels several years ago.

“They didn’t really have to do things exceptionally well” in the past, he said. Now, however, “if you want to be getting 15 to 20 percent growth, you have to be getting better than your competition.”

That reality was reflected in sales results from the 2009 holiday retail season, when major players like, which had 42 percent growth in holiday sales, edged small online retailers, which had a hard time getting traction.

An increasingly significant sliver of Fry’s growth is driven by clients’ demand for mobile sales solutions. Many major retailers are still developing and perfecting their mobile Web sites, Pataro said. Fry’s Web developers are developing mobile Web sites for a variety of clients, he said.

“The challenge for everyone is trying to figure out exactly what’s the best way to do it,” Pataro said.

Mobile retail sales strategies are rapidly changing as the market shifts and consumers get more demanding.

Some retailers are actively selling products through mobile devices, while others are designing their mobile sites mostly to be used as a research tool to complement a consumer’s brick-and-mortar experience.

Larry Freed, CEO of Ann Arbor-based customer satisfaction firm ForeSee Results, said mobile sites are increasingly crucial for retailers.

“There’s a lot of capability in the Web that doesn’t translate into the store,” he said. “So many retailers are now deploying them and improving them and figuring out how to do it.”

ForeSee Results, which has about 150 employees in Ann Arbor, and Fry cross paths in many ways, but they’re not competitors. ForeSee’s online surveys help retail clients measure the successes and failures of their Web sites, some of which were created by Fry consultants.

Freed said Fry’s growth is particularly impressive because of the intense competition in the Web development market, where ease-of-entry allows major companies and small players to compete on the same stage.

“It’s a very, very tough market,” Freed said.

Pataro said Fry’s growth is partly attributable to its diversity. The firm also offers consulting services and is now advising clients on how to leverage social media tools to sell products. The firm’s revenue also includes a sizable Web hosting business.

“We do everything for the customer,” he said.

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or or follow him on Twitter. You can also subscribe to Business Review's weekly e-newsletter or the upcoming breaking business news e-newsletter.