December 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

Staples revamps web site with new focus on search capabilities

Staples has repositioned its navigation bar and enlarged the search box as part of a web site redesign aimed at improving access to thousands of office supplies and related products. The new look also features a rotating hero shot and more white space.

Bill Briggs

Senior Editor

Staples Inc. has repositioned its navigation bar and enlarged the search box as part of a web site redesign aimed at improving access to thousands of office supplies and related products. The new look features a rotating hero shot and more personalized product recommendations.

Staples, No. 2 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name) began the redesign process in May and rolled out the new site in mid-December. The goal was to build on the company’s existing theme of easy shopping, Pete Howard, senior vice president, Staples business delivery, tells Internet Retailer.

“We wanted to make it easier for customers to find products,” Howard says. “What we find in customer surveys and focus groups is that customers want clarity and ease in finding products.”

Staples.com’s home page was based on a five-column format in the past and featured lengthy lists of products in the first three columns, along with a small search box at the top of the page. The redesigned site has a more horizontal look, more open space and a left-hand navigation bar with 12 product category headings, such as Staples Brand Products, Ink & Toner and Paper & Pads. Each one produces a detailed list of subcategories when moused-over. The home page also includes an expanded search box spanning more than half the page width, mouseover-triggered drop-down lists under My Account, Customer Service and Hot Deals Center headings, and four rotating hero shots featuring specials on office furniture, technology accessories and year-end tax filing products.

The last large-scale site redesign rolled out in mid-2005 and new features were added along the way, Howard says. Shopper behavior now dictates continuous site updating, he says. “Web browsing now includes doing research online before going to a store or buying online,” Howard says. “We knew we had to change the look and feel of the site to make it easier to work with us online.”

Redesign planning and development was conducted in-house and included representatives of many departments including site strategy, merchandising, marketing, information systems and web development. The redesign team also included the in-house usability department, customer service and a team from store operations because stores feature computer kiosks with access to all products available online.

Staples.com still runs on IBM WebSphere software, and while there was no new software included in the redesign the e-commerce site will make more extensive use of a personalization application from Certona Corp., Howard says. Functionality includes capturing customers’ shopping history and browsing paths to better anticipate their future shopping needs, he says.

Future site upgrades includes launching a new search-aided browse path in the spring, Howard adds.

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