Basic Features (worth 30 points)
The Office Depot and StaplesLink sites sport robust basic features, including search by part number, keyword or description, and express checkout. Each also contains a small engine that helps users identify the right supplies for a particular machine, such as toner cartridges for a copier, including generic and remanufactured alternatives. Most importantly, both enable customers to set up online laundry lists of commonly ordered items that users simply check off to buy, saving them the effort of having to search for them every time they need to order. Customers can set up both company-wide and individual laundry lists. Another common feature is the ability to add comments to each line item of an order, a particularly useful field when an administrator is placing an order on behalf of several people. For example, one item could have the reminder for Tony while another might specify for Mr. Erran's machine. Both sites give the administrator a wizard for adding new users.
If that weren't enough to wow a prospective customer over, both sites also offer:
- Electronic billing (EDI or a spreadsheet).
- The option for customers to use their own internal part number when ordering.
- The ability to prepare an order by typing in a list of parts.
- Search results organized by category.
- Highlighted contract items within the search results.
This Staples site has a number of unique features that users will find appealing. Customers can include only the catalog content they desire in their site with items in it priced to the customer's contract. Stapleslink.com also offers an online returns process from which users can print a return packing slip. This is a really important feature in our industry, where returns can run three to five percent or higher, explains Anne Marie Keene, Staple's vice president of B2B e-commerce. Our customers were asking us why they could order items online, but then had to call to return them. This feature really helps us keep down our costs because it reduces the amount of items that show up on our dock unexpectedly. The online process notifies us of the return, so even if users forget to put the packing slip in the box, we still know what it is.
Shoppers can find out whether there is inventory on any particular part by clicking on an icon to check. The response that comes back from an online inquiry is tailored to the customer's preference. For example, some companies want Staples to report only the items that are in stock at a Staples warehouse, whereas others want the option to consider items that can be shipped from a wholesaler. The site offers customers a company bulletin board that users will see when they log onto the site. For example, the administrator may wish to announce that new Staples catalogs are available or that the company picnic is tomorrow. The welcome bulletin can read differently for each ship-to location, a nice feature but probably not something needed for most 200-employee companies.
Two other useful StaplesLink.com features include a summary of the shopping cart contents on every Web page and customizable system messages, so notices are worded in an appropriate style for the company. When businesses are trying to change behavior, the easier they can make it, the better, explains Keene.
Office Depot's site also offers several unique, powerful user features. The most notable one is that inventory levels are specified for all parts right in the summarized description. Users do not have to make any extra clicks to obtain this information, nor do they have to wonder whether the inventory in stock is sufficient to cover the entire order. Another stand-out feature of the site is the neat, detailed description of every part in the catalog, viewable by clicking on the brief description of each product.