Tech Industry

HP shells out for site revamp

Hewlett-Packard has spent tens of millions of dollars redesigning its Web site in an attempt to make its e-commerce effort more coherent after its Compaq acquisition.

Hewlett-Packard has recently spent tens of millions of dollars revamping its Web site in an attempt to make its e-commerce effort more coherent after its acquisition of Compaq Computer.

HP is set to unveil a redesigned Web site for its largest corporate customers next week. But the bigger change will come Nov. 4, when the company debuts a new public site for consumers and small businesses, as well as a private site for its resellers.

HP was widely praised for having a unified Web site, including e-commerce functions, up and running by May 7, HP's first day as a combined company after the Compaq merger. But in its efforts to be ready on day one, HP put together a site consisting of a new front section that pointed people to various parts of the premerger HP and Compaq sites. The result was a single site, but one that was cumbersome to navigate.

"We kind of cobbled together the HP and Compaq sites," Mike Winkler, executive vice president of worldwide operations, told CNET News.com. Winkler wouldn't specify exactly how much HP has spent since then to create the new HP.com site, but he said, "You're certainly talking about tens of millions for the whole redesign."

That redesign comes as HP plans a new branding effort for this fall. Sources offered scant details but said that HP is focusing on its role as a technology leader and on explaining how the Compaq acquisition strengthens its hand.

"Today, everyone is down on tech," said one source. "But (HP's) message is it's seizing technology."

The new advertising is not expected to be a radical departure from the current 3-year-old "Invent" campaign. Indeed, one source said the tag line would probably remain. HP debuted the Invent campaign with ads showing the garage where David Packard and Bill Hewlett started the company. The campaign has since broadened, downplaying the founders and talking more about HP's current crop of products and inventors.

HP executives would not talk in detail about the campaign or say how much the company will spend on the advertising, but representatives have said in the past that the combined business should be able to shell out less on ads than the two companies spent separately. Last year, HP and Compaq ponied up a combined $275 million in U.S. measured media spending, according to AdAge.com.

As for the new Web site, HP is aiming for a unified look and easier navigation, but more importantly, Winkler said, the site will be focused on selling products as opposed to just providing information.

For example, the current front page of HP.com uses twice as much space to list recent press releases as it does to steer visitors to the company's online store.

"We've found that very few people are interested in HP news," Winkler said. "Yet we had devoted quite a bit of real estate. We've reduced that down to one button."

HP is trying to take advantage of the fact that more than 4 million people visit its Web site each week. That's 60 percent more than visit Dell.com, the Web site of the direct-sales champ. Many of those who visit HP.com are simply looking to download printer drivers or software updates, but HP is hoping that more of them can be influenced to make purchases as well.

HP offers people the ability to buy tens of thousands of products on its site, but the experience has often been time consuming and complicated.

"To order a desktop today, it typically takes about eight minutes," Winkler said. "When we implement the new site...we'll be down to less than five minutes."

Also, HP would like customers who do buy direct to use the Web instead of the phone. Winkler noted that the company could save $25 to $35 processing an order that comes in over the Internet versus one taken over the phone. Plus, surveys show that customer satisfaction is higher.

As far as the site for resellers goes, HP is focusing on moving resellers to a system called auto-replenishment, through which HP is able to monitor a reseller's sales and inventory levels and ship additional product when needed.

Corporate customers, too, will see several changes when they visit HP.com.

The company is refining the system that enables large customers that use procurement software from companies such as Commerce One, Ariba and SAP to connect directly from those programs to HP. Only about a third of HP's largest customers have such capabilities, but those that do are increasingly anxious to use them and are requiring suppliers to offer systems that allow them to.

Winkler said that today there are probably 125 of its largest customers that will take advantage of the revamped service. "We will double that within a matter of months," he said.

In addition, HP said all of its largest corporate customers will now be able to track the status of every order placed in the last 14 months, download software updates for the specific products they have purchased and be able to use a single sign-in to gain access to their customized site. In the past HP's corporate customers have had to log in multiple times to use different tools provided to corporate customers.

Large customers in the United States will see the new corporate site next week, with the European sites updated later this year and those in Asia early next year.