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Web-Site Overhaul

Circuit City Stores Inc., like many online retailers, has continuously added to its Web site ever since it began selling products there five years ago. But IT managers at the consumer-electronics company know that a Web site is only as good as the sum of its parts. On Sept. 7, with the busy holiday shopping season looming, Circuit City completed a year-long overhaul of, which now offers more than a million items for sale.

"Most Web sites, with some regularity, need to take a time-out to ensure that they're still whole from a customer's viewpoint," says Joe Riley, operations director for Circuit City Direct, the division that operates the Web site. That means not just upgrading the site with the latest technology but making sure the components work together so customers can easily use the site. Circuit City's Web pages had become crowded as its product assortment quadrupled, Riley says. Search capabilities were outmoded and navigating the site was becoming difficult.

Riley's team devoted the first weeks of the project last October to defining specific objectives, relying on the results of customer surveys and focus groups. Making it easy to find and compare products was critical. They found that shoppers sort products in myriad ways: For example, some people put camcorders with televisions and video products, while others categorize them as cameras.

The site now includes a masthead of product categories and site navigation tools. Shoppers can easily get 360-degree views and enlarged images of many products. Side-by-side comparisons and customer reviews of products are more prominent. And search capabilities were upgraded using Endeca Technology Inc.'s search engine, providing more flexible and intuitive ways of categorizing and searching for products.

Circuit City's site was originally built using BroadVision Inc.'s E-commerce software, which links to the retailer's custom point-of-sale and inventory-management applications. That gave shoppers the ability to order products online and pick them up at one of the chain's 600 stores. For the overhaul, the retailer upgraded to BroadVision Commerce 7, Riley says. Some of the applications built on BroadVision, such as the shopping-cart and content-management applications, have been rewritten in Java 2 Enterprise Edition.

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