December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Writing the book on wireless

By Kurt Peters

Editor in Chief

Conventional web wisdom says first to market and biggest wins. So if you’re neither, you need to be different. Barnes & Noble, a major force in bricks-and-mortar bookselling, lost out to Amazon in getting to the web first, so it needed something different. It found it in wireless. While other retailers have been looking for ways to make wireless shopping work, bn.com jumped into a wireless program and reaped almost immediate rewards: While they won’t be specific, bn.com executives say wireless shopping has resulted in new business beyond their expectations. “We hope to open a new distribution channel,” says Robert Albert, director of mobile strategies of bn.com’s On the Go program. “We’d like to capture new customers as well as provide a convenient and accessible product to our old ones.” On the Go, an extension of the Barnes & Noble web site, allows customers to shop online anywhere. The program allows users access to nearly everything in the bn.com inventory and includes a store locator with auto dialing and the Listening Wall, with clips from the top 10 CDs.

But bn.com didn’t just throw all its merchandise into a wireless application. “We concentrated on the usability of the product, asking ourselves what features and functionalities will fit,” Albert says. BN.com ended up offering users of wireless devices-PDAs and cell phones-the ability to drill down to ever-more-specific product selection. “We presented our merchandise in a series of categories that grow as the user selects them,” Albert says. “Users browse through the lists, following links downward in the hierarchy until they find the title they want.” Amazon, too, is using some wireless applications, but you know what they say about being first on the Internet.

Barnesandnoble.com

New York, NY

Monthly visitors: 6.3 million Q3

Sales: N/A

Went live: 1997

Design by: In-house

OS: Windows 2000

E-C Software: Microsoft

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