August 9, 2006, 12:00 AM

`Drink up a good book`

So says CuppaJoad.com, a recently launched blog from Alibris, which seeks to increase customer loyalty while learning about numerous new web tools.

More e-retailers continue to begin experiments with all the latest and greatest Internet tools, everything from blogs and podcasts to social networking sites and RSS feeds. Pure-play bookseller Alibris Inc. in May joined other retailers exploring new marketing and branding strategies by launching Cuppa Joad, The Alibris Book Blog. The blog is part of an overall effort by the e-retailer to test the waters of these new strategies.

The company, No. 108 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites, describes the blog as “a dose of the best literature-a daily indulgence in books for everyone who loves to read. Cuppa Joad is a blog about books, created for booklovers.” The name stems from the Joad family in the John Steinbeck literary classic, The Grapes of Wrath.

“We see the blog as a way to run a fairly low-cost experiment to accomplish a few objectives,” says chief operating officer Brian Elliott. “Obviously, part of the point is to sell books, mainly by bringing customers back to our web site more often. By increasing content depth and providing more ways for people to get notified when we’ve got new content, we encourage them to come back more often. Longer term, we also would like the blog to be a source for generating new customers looking for a good used book or hot new bestseller.”

However, there’s an internal objective as well. “A sizable part of the blog effort is about learning, for our staff and the organization as a whole,” Elliott says. “New tools like blogs, RSS feeds and ‘Web 2.0’ have potential for applications in the e-commerce space. Before investing in more sizable projects, a blog struck us as a way to learn more about these tools, practice using them and get a sense for what works.”

Alibris says it is pleased to date with the blog, especially with a significant amount of interest by users who wish to generate content for it. “Today our posts are generated by booksellers and Alibris staff members, a number of whom have a pent-up book reviewer deep inside.”

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