October 31, 2003, 12:00 AM

Restyling flies for these guys

After revamped web sites were launched late in the summer by Macys.com and BestBuy.com, a new batch of fresh faces is appearing on consumers` computers. They include Dell.com, HomeDepot.com and Bluefly.com.

It’s the season of web site redesigns. After revamped web sites were launched late in the summer by retailers including Macys.com and BestBuy.com, a new batch of fresh faces is appearing on consumers’ computers. They include Dell Inc.’s Dell.com, home improvement king The Home Depot Inc.’s HomeDepot.com and fashion discounter Bluefly Inc.’s Bluefly.com.

For Dell, its redesign ushers in its new strategy of combining its computer expertise with digital entertainment products. The redesigned site includes a new digital music section that lets shoppers download music as well as order a digital media player. The site will also offer improved navigation and enhanced imagery, the company says.

When customers said they wanted an easier way to check the status of their orders, Dell placed an “order status” link on each page and has seen a sharp drop in calls to its call center, says Neil Clemmons, senior vice president of Critical Mass, Dell’s web site design firm.

Dell also cut down the size of its navigation bar. “That provides 15% more merchandising space,” Clemmons says. “We found that customers like browsing by icons, but we didn’t find many people using the left nav bar.”

At home with multi-channel

The redesigned HomeDepot.com is intended to make online shopping easier as well as give customers the information they need to buy either online or in the store, says John Costello, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing.

The retailer, known for providing in-store advice on home-improvement projects, expanded its online how-to section to combine information on tools and other products with step-by-step project instructions, how-to articles, materials calculators and interactive virtual tours of sample projects. “We expect positive results in both channels as the web better educates customers about our products and the home improvement projects they can do,” says Shelley Nandkeolyar, vice president of interactive marketing and e-business. Nandkeolyar joined Home Dept over the summer after serving e-commerce stints at Martha Stewart Omnimedia and Williams-Sonoma.

HomeDepot.com now provides faster search and navigation, faster checkout, and an online order-tracking feature.

A new site registration feature encourages shoppers to sign up for e-mail informational campaigns. It also lets shoppers save researched information for later reference, view past order information, and create wish lists that can be e-mailed to friends.

Fashion face-lift

Taking a cue from its customers, Bluefly.com improved site search and navigation as part of a site redesign that also strives for elegance by displaying apparel on models against a white background. “Our goal is to be the best in the world at selling just designer fashions, so we built our site accordingly,” CEO Ken Seiff says.

Bluefly has also added about
$3 million in newly available merchandise to coincide with the redesign, increasing by 25% its number of product presentations, to more than 12,000 from 10,000, Seiff says.

Bluefly used an in-house team to redesign its site. The changes to the site’s appearance-trading product shots and background colors for fashion models and white space-came from its own staff’s ideas, but the changes to search and navigation came largely from ideas generated by customers, Seiff says. “We spend an enormous amount of time listening to what our customers want,” he says.

The search and navigation changes let shoppers search by size or product keywords, and shop by new product arrivals, by product category or by designer.

Seiff says he expects the redesign to help increase Bluefly’s rate of growth as it heads into the fall holiday shopping season, even surpassing its recent growth rate. “We were up 26% year-to-year in net sales for August, but now we’re expecting an even bigger and better holiday season,” he says.

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