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Staples.com overhauls Web site

Staples.com will tomorrow unveil a streamlined Web site and a souped up search engine in response to customer complaints that the site was cluttered and difficult to navigate.

Staples.com will tomorrow unveil a streamlined Web site and a more powerful search engine in response to customer complaints that the site was too cluttered and difficult to navigate.

The Net unit of office-supply chain Staples, which online researcher PC Data said is the No. 8 most visited e-commerce site, also shortened its registration process.

"The problem is that when you add more inventory, it's tougher to help people find products," said Staples.com spokeswoman Shannon Lapierre, noting that Staples.com features more than 130,000 stock keeping units.

Among office supply companies, Staples has been one of the most aggressive in implementing its Internet strategy. In recent months, Staples.com has started offering high-speed Internet access and created a tracking stock to help raise funding.

Seeking to recruit the top Web minds to help plot its e-commerce course, Staples sold 5 percent of the company to a group of Net-savvy venture capitalists that included General Atlantic Partners, Highland Capital Partners and Greylock Management. It also appointed eBay chief executive Meg Whitman to its advisory board.

The results of the Framingham, Mass.-based company could be paying off. According to PC Data, Staples.com attracted more than a million users in April, turning 14.3 percent of them into buyers. The company jumped from the 38th most visited e-commerce site in March to No. 8 in April.

Investors have been less than impressed with Staples.com's progress. The parent company's stock price fell in March after analysts predicted that the losses incurred by Staples.com would be larger than expected.

On March 2, Aram Rubinson of PaineWebber said Staples doubled its projected losses on Staples.com to jump to $150 million, up from $75 million. In its first-quarter earnings report, Staples said that its Net unit lost $16 million on $94.3 million in sales.