May 4, 2010, 5:16 PM

With new free express shipping for members, Barnes & Noble takes on Amazon

Barnes & Noble Inc. is going head to head with Amazon.com Inc. in the realm of delivery, giving loyalty club members unlimited free express shipping.

Barnes & Noble Inc. is going head to head with Amazon.com Inc. in the realm of delivery, giving loyalty club members unlimited free express shipping.

Customers pay $25 a year to be members of the retailer’s loyalty club and receive various benefits, such as discounts and coupons. Now members will also have unlimited free express shipping on all orders placed online at BN.com and on all ship-to-home orders placed in-store. Members will receive their orders in three business days or less, with no minimum purchase required and no limits, the merchant says.

“Extending free express shipping with no minimum on BN.com is yet another way to provide our millions of members with more benefits and reasons to shop, both at BN.com or in our more than 700 stores across the country,” says Marc Parrish, vice president of retention and loyalty marketing at Barnes & Noble, No. 42 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Similarly, Amazon.com, No. 1, offers Amazon Prime. For $79 a year, customers can receive free two-day shipping on every order. E-retailing experts believe the move by Barnes & Noble is designed to make it more competitive with web-only rival Amazon.

“Free shipping has always been a compelling online sales driver,” says Paula Rosenblum, managing director at e-commerce research and consulting firm RSR Research. “Amazon Prime is a bit tricky, because you often don’t realize you’re buying through a third party and are not eligible in those cases for free shipping. The price difference is a function of the variety of products Amazon sells versus the relatively limited assortment at Barnes & Noble. The bottom line is this is a good move on the part of Barnes & Noble.”

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