Staples.com Reinvents Itself

Friday Jul 29th 2005 by Lauren Simonds
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Soliciting feedback from thousands of its customers, Staples.com rebuilds itself to better serve small business.

After employing what it calls the most state-of-the-art, customer-centric research practices "ever applied to one single e-commerce site," Staples.com has finally re-launched itself in an effort to make shopping online for office products faster and easier.

This comes months after the company pulled the plug on the new site the day before it was originally scheduled to re-launch in February. At the time, the company vaguely attributed its sudden change in plans to technical issues that still needed to be resolved.

Changes throughout the shopping process were designed, according to the company, to "make it easy to find the right products, easy to order and easy to checkout."

In a recent statement, Brian Light, executive vice-president of Staples Business Delivery called the new Staples.com "the site that our customers built." He added, "Our expert usability team applied state-of-the art customer research methodologies to identify characteristics of our key customers so that we could design the site specifically for them."

As a result of that research, Staples.com created customer personas — generalized identities that represent the buying habits and patterns of their main customer groups. Knowing how their customers shop helped them streamline the process to suit customer needs so that they can, according to Light, "get in, get out and get on with their busy day."

For example, the company identifies "Lisa Listmaker" as an office manager whose main objective is to complete the order quickly. She typically buys a standard order, shops with a detailed list with item numbers and goes for special deals if they save her company more money.

Staples.com dubbed another persona as Sammy Specific, a small business owner not prone to planning his office supply shopping. He doesn't know item numbers, but buys products by brand or by specification.

But cutesy names alone won't help you find your supplies easier or pay for your order any faster, so what exactly did Staples.com change to speed the process along?

Here's a list of new features and improvements:

Improved categorization on the homepage: All of the product categories are now located "above the fold" or the top half of the browser screen. You don't have to scroll to find a category, which the company says, makes it easier to find the products you're looking for.

Learn More About and Help Me Decide: Recommendation tools that help you pick the right product.

New navigation tabs: The tabs help you to find key information quickly. My Account and Ink and Toner for account management and, not surprisingly, ink and toner supplies. You'll find weekly deals and other price promotions under the Specials tab.

Easy Reorder: Shop faster for your business, er, staples by using lists based on your past orders.

Add to Cart: A one-click feature that lets you select multiple products from a list and add them all to your cart.

Necessary and Recommended: products: Order a product and this feature tells you if you need another item to make it work. So if you buy a printer, you'll get a reminder that you also need a cable.

Learn more about all the new features at Staples.com.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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