June 17, 2008, 12:00 AM

CPA2Biz.com’s site redesign boosts traffic by 20%

CPA2Biz.com’s customers said the web site was hard to read and products hard to find. That blunt feedback helped direct a site redesign and resulted in improved customer satisfaction – and sales.

When e-commerce customers say a web site is hard to read and they can’t find products, it’s a good time to ponder changes. CPA2Biz.com did just that, and the results of a June 2007 site relaunch included an increase from 89% to 93% in how customers rated the ease of finding products.

“We were not making good use of the left navigation area on our old site,” said Melissa Rothchild, vice president of marketing at CPA2Biz.com, a retail site that carries products and publications for accounting and finance professionals. CPA2Biz.com, No. 345 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is a for-profit subsidiary of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

While the previous web site featured a top navigation area, the upgraded site uses a “bold, prominent left navigation area that’s consistent throughout the site,” Rothchild told attendees last week at the 2008 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

Other results: Site traffic was up 20% to 480,000 unique visitors in the most recent quarter and online sales are up 20% year over year, Rothchild said.

Rothchild was joined at the session on planning for a web site redesign by Bernardine Wu, CEO of FitForCommerce, an e-commerce consulting firm. In addition to understanding shoppers, e-retailers should turn a critical eye inward, Wu said.

“You need to understand your organization and its resources,” she said. “There are key questions to ask yourself: Have you allocated enough time to do a redesign? Are there conflicting projects? You could wind up swapping out other systems at the same time if you’re not careful.”

Wu advised e-retailers to determine their technology strategy up front, so they know if they will buy, build or rent technology tools. The point is to ensure the finalists are in the same category.

Start with five to 12 vendors and ask them to submit formal proposals. “Give them a week to reply with questions and then give them at least two weeks, but no more than three weeks, to send the proposal,” she said.

While vendors won’t like the idea, e-retailers should pick two finalists and negotiate with both. “Then you don’t have to start over if something doesn’t work out with your first choice,” Wu said.  

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