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HP remakes its online face

Hewlett-Packard plans to debut a revamped Web site designed to boost its direct sales effort and better integrate products acquired from Compaq.

Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday plans to debut a revamped Web site designed to boost its direct sales effort and better integrate products acquired from Compaq Computer.

As previously reported, HP has spent millions of dollars remaking its various Web sites and improving its e-commerce offerings in the wake of its Compaq acquisition. Last month, the company debuted an updated site for businesses, while the public version is set for Tuesday.

The revamped Web site is one of several tasks on deck for HP as it enters a new fiscal year, which started Friday. Later this month, the company plans to start a new brand marketing campaign, clarify its software strategy, and launch new hardware products in a wide range of categories.

This week the company also kicked off a new, unified program, known as Partner One, for those that resell HP and Compaq gear. The new reseller program, which replaces some 40 prior ones, divides those that sell HP gear into three categories: business partner, gold partner and platinum partner. Those in gold and platinum tiers can get additional marketing dollars and other incentives. Resellers can qualify for the various levels either by selling a certain amount of HP gear or by devoting a specified amount of staff to HP sales efforts.

As for the Web site, one of HP's main goals is boosting the amount of sales it drives through its online operations. Executives have said that HP can save $25 to $35 for each order that comes in over the Internet versus one taken over the phone.

"We want to take advantage of the 4 million unique visitors who come (to each week," said Marius Haas, who heads HP's e-commerce activities.

At the same time, Haas said, HP recognizes that many of those who come to are interested in downloading a new software driver for their printer, not buying a PC.

In at least one case, HP appears to have taken the commerce theme a bit far. Those interested in finding a job on HP's site find that there is even a "shopping cart" in which descriptions of prospective jobs can be stored.

HP won praise for having a combined site up and running on its first day as a combined company. However, that site was largely a page that simply pointed people to premerger HP and Compaq sites, and was cumbersome to navigate.

"We kind of cobbled together the HP and Compaq sites," Mike Winkler, HP executive vice president of worldwide operations, told CNET in a September interview.

Haas said that the new site is designed to be far easier to move around in, with much more information available from the main page. Scrolling over the category you are interested in brings up a list of possible choices, a move Haas said will cut down on the number of clicks needed to do many of the most common tasks.

Also, Haas said, about 80 percent of the Web pages in HP's sites are now unified, though some Compaq pages still exist, particularly in the support section.

HP also has added features to improve its customer support and other features, but leading online rival Dell Computer said it is not worried by the revamp.

"We feel very comfortable with the success of our site," said Sam Decker, senior manager for Dell's consumer e-business operations.