October 17, 2007, 12:00 AM

Panasonic balances site design with practicality

Panasonic spent almost 15 months poring over web analytics data and consumer surveys to draft a blueprint for reducing the time it took shoppers to find merchandise while improving the organization and depth of product information.

When Panasonic.com went about rebuilding its web site for the first time since the site launched in 2000, the initial order of business was solving a series of complex design and content development challenges. As a major producer of consumer electronics, Panasonic had to balance the needs of consumers who use Panasonic.com to research and shop for products at both online and offline retailers as well as those who want to buy directly from the manufacturer.

To achieve the right balance, Panasonic, No. 158 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, spent almost 15 months poring over web analytics data and consumer surveys and working with Renegade Marketing Group, a New York web design firm, to draft a blueprint that would reduce the time it took shoppers to find merchandise, capture demographic information for retailers, and improve the organization and depth of product information.

The old Pansonic.com was poorly organized. Rather than achieve a universal look and feel, the home page didn’t feature merchandise, didn’t include a search box and didn’t make it clear how shoppers could make a purchase or research a product. “Things were pretty ad-hoc,” says Panasonic vice president of e-business Jeremy Dalnes. “The site just lacked cohesiveness.”

The first order of business was redesigning Panasonic.com around three core categories: Shop and Compare, Learn About It and Get Support. A clearly visible menu was added to the Panasonic home page which now directs visitors to a drop down menu of 10 core consumer electronics categories. When a visitor arrives on a category page, the content is now cleanly organized around three distinctive tabs that enable visitors to compare various products and complete a transaction, research a product, and find product support documents or locate a certified center.

The site now also features extensive use of rich media and better search. On a product page for plasma TVs, for example, visitors can sample product videos, click and see larger images, and read detailed product summaries and other information. Panasonic also redesigned each product page with a search box. The new site search engine, which features guided navigation from Endeca Technologies Inc., delivers faster answers that include results by category, price and other categories.

With better technology, the time it takes visitors to initiate a query and receive specific results has decreased by 50%. “The main elements of the redesign now track the customer as they use the site,” Dalnes says. “Before shoppers went down three distinct information silos that weren’t connected. We solved that problem by implementing a design that includes search on every page and the ability to shop, research or get support.”

Dalnes will speak at the Internet Retailer Web Design ’08 Conference, Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Miami, in a session titled Are your doors open and lights on?

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