Wal-Mart revamps its Website

After a comprehensive overhaul that took about 13 months, discount retailing giant Wal-Mart in late October unveiled a new and improved Website. The Bentonville, AR-based merchant launched Walmart.com in October 2000; while the site has had several iterations along the way, the latest redo is “a very dramatic redesign,” says Debbie Kristofferson, vice president of user experience for Brisbane, CA-based Walmart.com.

The overhaul touches 1,000 categories, more than 1 million SKUs, and more than 2 million Web pages, with new designs of the home, apparel, and electronics departments. Some form of rich media, including close-ups and alternate views, appears on about 5,000 of those pages. “That enables us to bring a piece of information to a customer when they need it,” Kristofferson says. “There is more space dedicated to telling stories that are more emotionally engaging about our products.”

Larger images, bolder page designs, and clearer messages help with the storytelling, as well as make the site easier to shop. “We wanted to offer more information about the products we sell on the Website through images, much bigger images on the page,” Kristofferson continues. “We have pages now where if you go to an outfit or collection, you see all those collections together and can add them to your cart from one page.” Other improvements include an interactive “wish list” option in the toy section, more-detailed product information, and customer reviews.

During the Website overhaul, Walmart.com paid considerable attention to customer comments. “We were starting to get feedback as to how the Website could better meet their needs,” Kristofferson says. “We wanted to figure out how we can present information in a way where customers can easily figure out their next step. For instance, in the past when customers came to the home page, there was difficulty with how they were using tabs at the top of page. We used to have two rows of tabs, and we needed to streamline the tabs. Now we only have one row of tabs, which makes it easier.”

In fact, the entire navigation was streamlined, so that customers can now advance to checkout from just about any point with fewer than four clicks. In addition, the left-hand navigation bar on the home page and the assorted drop-down menus have been alphabetized. “It’s a simple change,” Kristofferson says, “but all those things add up.”

Even before the changes were implemented, Walmart.com broke the billion-dollar sales barrier: Of Wal-Mart’s roughly $285 billion in 2005 sales, about $1.17 billion came from e-commerce. That’s a 50% increase from $782 million in 2004.

Some of that revenue found its way back to the Website. “We almost doubled the size of our creative team to put more resources on the page and create an inspirational message about our assortment from our point of view on the site,” says Kristofferson.

And earlier this year Walmart.com introduced Soundcheck, a series of original musical performances from an eclectic mix of artists including Clay Aiken, Diddy, and Keith Urban. Soundcheck was designed to increase Walmart.com’s presence in the expanding digital music market. Walmart.com visitors can stream 40-minute concerts by various groups and download an audio track for 88 cents.

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