January 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

New web tools help Alibris grow business by 18%

Alibris reports that 2008 web sales were up 18% compared with the prior year. A renewed focus on web tools dedicated to rare and collectible books, music and movies led the way.

By leveraging new web site tools and enabling retail partners to do the same, Alibris Inc. increased holiday sales by 8% and ended 2008 with 18% annual growth. The online marketplace for 12,000 sellers of new and used books, CDs, and DVDs grew sales from $113.2 million in 2007 to $133.6 million in 2008, according to Internet Retailer estimates.

Last year, Alibris retargeted sales of rare and collectible books, music, and movies, using feedback from customers and booksellers to launch a completely redesigned Rare and Collectible section on its web site in late October. The relaunch and other site improvements led to a 34% increase in collectible and rare book shipments, says Alibris, No. 112 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Sellers also responded by increasing listings of collectible books by more than 24%, the company says.

Alibris’ overhaul of its collectibles helped offset economic pressures that reduced average selling prices and drove more customers to lower-priced used books, DVDs, and CDs, the company says.

The holiday sales strategy featuring higher-priced collectible products was balanced by promotions aimed at price-conscious consumers through sale and bargain books sections. Sellers got the attention of those shoppers with a new data-analysis tool that helps sellers competitively price their inventory. Alibris gives sellers access to proprietary sales and pricing data that enable them to offer their items at the best prices.

“In a down market, we’re clearly demonstrating that improving the user experience for book collectors, as well as satisfying the demands of price-conscious buyers, helps drive sales to our sellers,” says Brian Elliott, president and CEO of Alibris. “We told antiquarian booksellers in the fall that we’d help them find more buyers-and we’ve done just that.”

Elliott is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 15-18 in Boston, in a session titled Building your brand online.

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