The Way’s new site design makes customer navigation easier.

Retailers are continually revamping their sites with new technologies and features such as videos, blogs and product reviews to meet customer expectations. While these options are appealing to, the company is focused on easier online navigation.

Wal-Mart is upgrading many of its nationwide stores this year. With that said, the chain realized that it couldn’t neglect its Web site, which was becoming a bit stagnant.

“When we asked our customers what they thought of [], we heard it was cluttered, unsophisticated and basic,” said Brian Osborn, director of marketing strategies of “We were getting the perception that the design wouldn’t propel us forward, so we needed to address those issues and make a change.”’s Osborn was among the retailers who gathered in June, at the Internet Retailer 2007 conference in San Jose, Calif., to discuss the latest in e-commerce strategies.

For, the top priority was uncluttering a site that seemed too crowded with merchandise and information.

“People weren’t sure where their eyes were supposed to go and there was too much competing for their attention,” Osborn said during the session, “Wal-Mart: The Giant Uses the Web to Extend Its Market Reach.”

For example, customers complained there were too many tabs across the top of the homepage, making it hard to pinpoint key categories. Using these suggestions as a jump-off point, the company embarked on its redesign in October 2006.

The retailer removed superfluous links in the left-hand navigational bar and the section was placed in alphabetical order. Wal-Mart also added features that helped drive customers deeper into the site. also established better visual placement of its popular “store-finder” link and key integrated services, such as photo, pharmacy, Site-to-Store free-shipping service and gift registry.

The site overhaul touched 1,000 categories and more than 2 million site pages. “Customer satisfaction significantly improved,” he noted. “They called the redesign ‘smart,’ ‘comfortable’ and ‘of high quality.’”

Bridging the channels: According to Osborn, 75% of Wal-Mart store shoppers have Internet access. Half of these shoppers visit and 76% have purchased online. Additionally, 90% of visitors have shopped at a Wal-Mart store within the last month and more than half of its customers are in a Wal-Mart store once a week.

“We want to help [multichannel] customers make purchasing decisions in a way that they weren’t before, and there’s only so much you can do with four walls,” he said, adding that Wal-Mart’s online-merchandise offerings far surpass what’s available in stores.

“We want to be a multichannel retailing leader, and the way to do that is to address our customers’ needs.”’s Site-to-Store service is a perfect example of this theory. shoppers can make a purchase online and have orders delivered to their local store for free.

Site-to-Store sales have more than doubled since its March rollout, and about 90% of participating stores had at least one Site-to-Store order within the first 48 hours of service activation.

The service, which is available at 2,400 stores so far, is gaining strong traction. Two-thirds of customers who use this service already shop at Wal-Mart stores weekly, and half spend an additional $60 on in-store purchases when picking up their order. Wal-Mart hopes to complete the nationwide rollout this month.

Improved navigation has also tied the retailer’s online-offline experience. For example, played a critical part in supporting the rollout of the nationwide $4 generic drug plan by providing information on the site.

“People wanted to know what generics were covered and if their state was in the program. They also used the site to place orders for items such as contact lenses and then go pick them up at the store,” Osborn said.

As e-commerce continues to grow, so does

“[Online retailing] is just scratching the surface right now,” he added. “It’s our job to learn how to drive retail sales online and offline. We think there’s a ton of opportunity here and we are very excited to be a part of it.”

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