Now that it has relaunched its e-commerce site after years of operating on the Amazon platform, Borders Group Inc. is continuing to develop its web infrastructure to provide a store-like experience online while also making its stores more interactive, CEO George Jones said in a keynote address at Shop.org this week.
Jones gave a history of how Borders backed out of its initial retail site in 2001, when then-senior management buckled under the downturn of the Internet investment boom to focus on building out a chain of super-stores while minimizing its losses in the web channel. Borders then switched to an e-commerce platform hosted and operated by Amazon.com Inc. But when Jones joined Borders as the retailer’s top executive in 2006, he set out a clear plan to return Borders to its own e-commerce platform, a move that would not only enable it to provide a more engaging and differentiated retail web site, but also support cross-channel retailing, he said. “I felt we had to get back to the web,” Jones said.
Jones said he made it clear to the company’s senior management that Borders would forge ahead with not only new e-commerce site but also a multi-channel strategy that would not let the company operate in separate silos for each retailing channel. He also gave strong support to the web site development plans of Kevin Ertell, a veteran e-commerce executive who had been brought in before Jones arrived from Tower Records.
Key to those plans, he said, was re-making Borders.com as a destination that would provide an online shopping experience that shared some of the qualities of its stores, where 250 million annual visitors spend an average of one hour per visit, Jones said. “We wanted people to go to the site and hang out,” he said.
In addition to the site’s Magic Shelf, which lets visitors browse through images of book covers in a virtual bookshelf presentation, Borders.com also features exclusive video interviews with authors and celebrities ranging from former president Jimmy Carter and Caroline Kennedy to mystery writer Stephen King.
To leverage the strength of the web in a multi-channel environment, Borders is taking several steps including providing online wish lists that customers can develop and use at home or on in-store kiosks and developing store-based digital centers in hundreds of super-stores. The digital centers let shoppers go online to download audiobooks, work on self-published books with partner Lulu.com and develop digital photo albums with partner Shutterfly.com.
Jones and Ertell said in a question-and-answer period after Jones’s keynote address that Borders will also work toward developing an m-commerce presence. Eventually, Ertell added, in-store shoppers will be able to check customer reviews of books from their cell phones.