February 24, 2006, 12:00 AM

Barnes & Noble’s 2005 online sales up 7% over 2004

Extending its store experience to shoppers on BarnesandNoble.com helped to push web sales to about $450 million for the fiscal year ended Jan. 28, Barnes & Noble.com CEO Marie Toulantis said at the eTail 2006 Conference this week.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

 

Extending its store experience to shoppers on BarnesandNoble.com helped to push web sales to about $450 million for the fiscal year ended Jan. 28, up from $419.8 million in the prior year, Barnes & Noble.com CEO Marie Toulantis said at the eTail 2006 Conference in Palm Springs, CA, this week. At the same time, she added, the multi-channel policy has resulted in BarnesandNoble.com influencing 33% of Barnes & Noble store sales, compared to an industry average of 24% cited by Forrester Research.

Barnes & Noble, No. 23 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, has taken several steps to replicate online its store experience-including broad product selection, personalized service and an “ambient” shopping atmosphere, Toulantis said.

While a typical Barnes & Noble store is known for keeping hundreds of thousands of book titles, and has employees trained to bring customers directly to the book they’re seeking, the web site is backed by a 1-million-title warehouse and site search and navigation features designed to be intuitive to how consumers search for books, Toulantis said. She added that the web site’s site search feature is based on a combination of in-house and Endeca Technologies Inc. technology.

To assure a high level of customer service, Barnes & Noble has avoided outsourcing its call center and operates its own center close to its corporate headquarters in New York, helping it to control its level of service while providing a career path for employees who start out as customer service reps, Toulantis said.

She added that BarnesandNoble.com tries to follow a strict policy of assuring that its site is available virtually all the time. “Our minimum up-time is three nines, or 99.9%,” she said.

For the past three years, she added, BarnesandNoble.com has also developed customer relationships by offering audio and video-based discussion groups led by book authors. “That gives authors the ability to interact with customers,” she said.

 

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