August 23, 2007, 12:00 AM

HP refines its online product comparison tools

HP Home & Home Office Store was an early believer in designing pages around a family of products. Now HP is refining its page design with new features and functions that make it easier for customers to compare products.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

HP Home & Home Office Store, the business-to-consumer e-commerce arm of Hewlett-Packard Co., was an early believer in designing pages and packaging content around a family of products. Now the company is refining its page design with new features and functions that make it easier for customers to compare products.

Over time HP Home & Home Office Store has added product recommendations to items customers are placing into their shopping carts. Product pages also have been reconfigured with other enhancements such as rich media that allow customers to zoom in and see a notebook computer, big screen TV or digital camera in three dimensions.

Site search also has been refined to allow customers to search by different criteria such as price after rebate, mega-pixel size, display size and optical zoom for a digital camera. HP Home & Home Office Store, No. 5 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has been offering product comparisons for at least four years. But now product comparison pages are being updated with new content and design templates that give visitors different ways to mix and match products.

For instance, visitors to HPShopping.com can now fill out a questionnaire that targets their interest in specific printers. The questionnaire asks visitors to narrow their selection to specifics such as black and white or color features, preferred features, how many pages they print each month, price, and other metrics. The completed questionnaire then leads them to an enhanced product page laid out with zoom technology, customer reviews, detailed features and functions, and related products.

“Product comparisons aren’t the same and they shouldn’t follow the same design formula,” says Michael Ritter, vice president of merchandising for HP Home & Home Office Store. “Our product comparisons were originally very SKU-intensive and now they are more defined.” Manufacturers can fall into a rut of designing product comparison pages that rely too much on text and one-dimensional images, says Ritter. But HPShopping.com has updated its merchandise comparison pages with new features such as zoom technology and product videos. Visitors also can review related products, see previously viewed items and even access product manuals.

“We’re evolving the page designs to think about the customers and their basic need,” says Ritter. “We used to have a ‘speed and feeds’ design mentality, but now we are being more specific.” In future page designs, HP Home & Home Office Store will upgrade its product comparison pages and content with more side-by-side product comparisons and life style-oriented text and images. “Not everyone wants to research a product by just its features and functions,” says Ritter. “They may want to research how a product fits their particular lifestyle or even figure out what exactly they want the product to do.”

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