Doran Robinson previously worked for healthcare information technology vendor athenahealth.
Books, CDs and DVDs have been staples since the dawn of Internet retailing.
Books, CDs and DVDs have been staples since the dawn of Internet retailing. They are the easiest products to sell online because shoppers do not need to touch them to confidently make a purchase. What`s more, the Internet has made buying these items easier than doing so in stores, offering search capabilities, customer reviews, automatic recommendations of related products, and many other types of tools that cannot be duplicated in stores.
The e-retailers in this year`s Hot 100 books/film/music category have been building on their already helpful tricks of the e-trade to make the web experience even easier and more fulfilling for customers.
BarnesandNoble.com is going the distance. Since book buyers in store can page through books in their hands, the e-retailer has introduced See Inside, which allows customers to visually page through books. But the feature surpasses what customers can do in stores by allowing them to search through titles for words and phrases. Another new site feature is video of in-store readings by and interviews with authors and celebrities. What`s more, video interviews are webcast live.
Similarly, Chapters.Indigo.ca, operated by Canada`s Indigo Books & Music, has launched an Authors & Artists program, where authors, artists, musicians, actors and directors whip up profiles about their careers complete with photos and online videos. And customers can post comments in the section that can include their own videos.
When it comes to making an easy shopping experience even easier, AbeBooks.com and Netflix.com are boldly going where few e-retailers have gone before: m-commerce. Netflix offers an m-commerce site where members can search for films and add them to their queue, which they can view and reorder.
And AbeBooks launched a text messaging program. College students in bookstores looking for textbooks can use their mobile phones to text AbeBooks.com the unique ISBN number of a book to see if they can get a better price on the e-retailer`s site. The e-retailer texts them back its price for the book, and follows up with an e-mail embedded with a link to the book on the site.
Making things easy
AbeBooks, an online outlet for 13,500 booksellers, is a premier Internet destination to find used and out-of-print books. Its simple and colorful design, easy but powerful search tool, and enormous inventory create a fulfilling shopping experience.
"AbeBooks sets the standard for an international book marketplace," says George Whalin, president and CEO of Retail Management Consultants. "The search capabilities are quick and return a variety of sources for books at a range of prices. And the services and tools available to independent booksellers are extensive and a great way for someone to get into the bookselling business without a steep learning curve."
In 2007 the site made major strides toward serving a key customer base: college students in search of textbooks. An m-commerce initiative lets students send a text message containing a book`s unique ISBN number to AbeBooks while they`re at a college bookstore and immediately receive a text message in return with search results. If they can save by buying the book through AbeBooks, they can ask for a purchase link to be e-mailed to them and order the tome the next time they log on to their computer.
One of the company`s goals is to make it increasingly easier to find the right book, says director Boris Wertz. "Abe is at its best when you know exactly what you`re looking for," he says. "We can improve the experience for people who have a less precise idea of what they want. We want to be able to tell you what`s the bestselling travel guide to Hawaii, or the one with the best reviews. We`re not yet doing that."
The company`s association with LibraryThing, a social networking/book cataloging site in which it owns a 40% stake, should help. AbeBooks is integrating the recommendations of LibraryThing`s 296,000 users--who have cataloged more than 20 million books--into its database so customers can enter books they like and get related suggestions. "The LibraryThing recommendations are very solid," Wertz says, "because people only catalog books they really like." Back to Top
Made for the medium
With the advent of downloadable music, web-based audio shot into the Internet retailing stratosphere. Since the first wave of users--teens and young adults--created the market, content and the user base have expanded, and now many products once chained to ink and paper or tape or CD are available online.
Audible.com, Newark, N.J.-based Audible Inc.`s e-commerce site, has taken to the Internet like a duck to water and created a simple web site that`s loaded with highly accessible content and built with a marketer`s eye.
The site is simple to navigate and straightforward. The company makes full use of digital media, offering audio books from fiction to business to comedy, along with magazines and old-time radio shows, all available for download to mobile devices and computers. The site includes podcasts and RSS feeds to best-seller lists.
Site navigation is simple and intuitive, says Georgianne Brown, former president at BabyUniverse.com and now a consultant with South Florida-based Big Couch Media Group, an e-commerce consulting firm.
From a marketing perspective, the home page gets shoppers into the sales funnel right away by an offer`s prominent position, such as a discounted three-month membership. "Audible is doing a nice job of getting the consumer engaged in the sales process," Brown says.
In addition to engaging shoppers in the company brand, Audible.com also lures them with its breadth of product: more than 40,000 titles. "As a consumer, I would think `Wow, they probably have everything I`m looking for,`" Brown says.