Online book seller Alibris Inc. is gearing up for more overseas expansion. Today, Alibris, No. 98 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, gets about 15% of its orders for used, rare and out-of-print books from overseas customers. “We think we can grow this substantially for our sellers and customers,” says chief operating officer Brian Elliott.
Alibris operates a service that connects book buyers with a network of thousands of independent sellers around the world. But to streamline order processing and customer service, the company needs to make several improvements, Elliott says. “We have sellers in over 50 countries today, but our consumer web site is not terribly friendly to customers outside of the U.S.,” Elliott says. “Everything is denominated in U.S. dollars, merchandising picks are generally U.S. bestsellers mixed with classics and collectibles and the shipping offer to customers outside the U.S. and Canada is not terribly attractive.”
To build a base for better overseas order processing, Alibris in 2006 plans to add a currency converter and streamline shipping. Today all domestic and international shipping orders are routed through a distribution center in Nevada, but going forward Alibris will develop order-processing programs that connect international buyers directly to overseas book sellers.
“A sizable part of the change will be moving to a regional direct shipping model so that sellers in the United Kingdom are shipping directly to customers in that country,” Elliott says. “This sounds straightforward, but involves a fair amount of planning and conversations about how we handle shipping and handling charges and reimbursements for different regions.”
Elliott says that Alibris is now the fourth largest online book seller and is counting on more overseas opportunity to grow its business in a new direction. “We`ll be making a number of modifications over time,” he says. “In the U.S., we`ve grown our web site traffic and share appreciably in the last three years and we expect to drive the same sort of growth in our business outside the U.S.”