4.0 for StaplesLink

B2B site beefs up order management features, streamlines interface; online side helps drive growth for office supplies giant's contracts division

Framingham, MA  February 18, 2003  Office products giant Staples this week launched a new version of its StaplesLink.com Web site, streamlining the user interface, adding new order management features for purchasing executives and upgrading user profile capabilities.

StaplesLink offers a Web-based B2B procurement site for office equipment and supplies, and the site now accounts for almost three-quarters of the orders to Staples Contract Division, which services midsize and large enterprises. Staples says that about 4.2 million end users at nearly 20,000 organizations use the site.

Version 4.0 of the site offers a streamlined "look and feel," with navigational improvements based on customer feedback and usability analysis. The new site also allows companies to customize the procurement portal with their own logo.

Improved order management capabilities allow purchasing managers to track all of a company's orders, regardless of whether they are placed through StaplesLink or by phone or fax through Staples Contract. Spending reports now include all orders, regardless of order method, and are viewable by order method, budget center or date.

In addition, updated user profile pages enable supervisors and administrators to create and modify user profiles, and the site allows purchasers to process returns online.

Staples has also incorporated a "Staples at Work" resource center into the site to provide users with quick access to information about their company's program with Staples Contract. For example, users can track their orders or learn how Staples retail stores are networked with their program, providing access for last-minute product and copy center needs.

Finally, the search features now allow users to get information on recycled content products, as well as items supplied by minority and/or women-owned businesses.

The office products giant credits StaplesLink with being a key factor in the growth of its Contract Division, which now accounts for about $1 billion of Staples' $11 billion annual sales. Staples says that the division pulled in 8,400 new customers in the first three quarters of its 2002 fiscal year, and that 95 percent of the division's new customers are electing to place orders through the StaplesLink site.

Jay Baitler, senior vice president at Staples Contract, also suggested that StaplesLink plays a large part in the contract division's 90 percent customer retention rate, and he noted that the online component has seen return rates more than 35 percent lower than the offline side of the business, a fact that he attributed in part to the greater sense of ownership that end users feel when they are able to place orders for products themselves.

Baitler added that the greater amount of data that Staples is now able to collect on its customers' purchasing trends, down to the end user level, has helped the company fine tune its offering to better meet its clients' needs.

For her part, Lisa Hamblet, vice president for B2B e-commerce at Staples Contract Division, attributed much of StaplesLink's current success to the company's accumulated experience integrating the site with its customers' overall e-procurement applications, whether that be an Ariba, Commerce One, Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft or other solution. "At this point, we can implement with a customer in less than 30 days, and a lot of that is focused on working with the customer to identify their business rules to make sure that we integrate that appropriately and then to spend some time testing," she explained.

The growth in the site's usage is one reason why Staples opted to build the new StaplesLink on IBM's WebSphere Commerce Business Edition platform, which the company believes will provide better scalability than the IBM Net.Commerce platform that Staples used in previous iterations of the site, according to Hamblet.
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