The growing number of influential Weibo commentators are increasingly opening their own online shops or promoting products.
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The site does a good job of establishing value as well, with its AudibleListener Gold plan. "There is very high perceived value when you compare the cost of one book or publication with the three month special," Brown says. "It`s a great marketing program."
On top of establishing the value of its brand, the e-commerce site notes on its home page that audio content can be downloaded and played on 230 devices, and singles out Apple Inc.`s iPod. "Using the Apple iPod brand name also gives credibility," Brown says. Back to Top
Bonding with the brand
There`s a feeling that pervades a good bookstore. The store is arranged to invite those who enter to browse, to investigate whatever captures their attention; basically, to just hang out. The redesigned BarnesandNoble.com launched in October does the same thing, with new features that offer visitors more ways to engage with the brand, thanks in large part to creative use of Web 2.0 technology.
The site boasts new features such as podcasts and video of in-store readings by and interviews with top authors and celebrities, such as Studs Terkel and Tom Brokaw. What`s more, video interviews are webcast live. The site also offers a See Inside feature that enables visitors to page through titles on the site and search for specific words and phrases. Additionally, the redesign introduces Barnes and Noble Reviews, exclusive content penned about leading books of the day by prominent authors and reviewers.
A new tag cloud on the home page shows visitors what`s being searched on the site as well as the relative popularity of searches. A scrolling banner of product recommendations for gift-giving rolls across the top of the page, with mouse-over previews providing more detail on each item. The redesign also features more social networking opportunities such as online book clubs, and introduces enhanced store locator functionality and the ability to check inventory across channels.
A key driver of the redesign is providing content valued by site visitors and new ways for them to interact with it. "The more a customer can be engaged with your brand, the more interest they will have in your products and the more time they spend with you," says Marie J. Toulantis, CEO, BarnesandNoble.com.
And if BarnesandNoble.com`s goal in the relaunch is to deepen customers` engagement with the brand in the fiercely competitive category of books and music, it`s succeeding, says Gene Alvarez, vice president of retail e-commerce at Gartner Inc. "They`re using rich Internet applications and Web 2.0 technology," he says, "to create a branded, differentiated online experience." Back to Top
Building a community
Bookstores are communal places where shoppers can go to meet authors, listen to them read from their latest works, and discuss literature. While the Internet has taken that coziness away, Indigo Books & Music Inc. is determined to restore this heritage by building a series of communities on its web site for author chats and book clubs.
"Having Amazon as a major competitor doesn`t allow book and music retailers to rest on their laurels, and Indigo offers all the bells and whistles shoppers expect from a good competitor in a tough market," says Maris Daugherty, Chicago-based senior consultant for J.C. Williams Group.
The Toronto-based retailer`s Authors & Artists Program showcases the talents of authors, musicians, actors and film directors through self-created profiles that detail their personal interests and work for their fans. Participants can write posts about upcoming projects, upload photos, embed video, and create polls related to their work.
The book club program allows shoppers to connect with other booklovers to discuss and debate new works and literary topics. Members can embed video to share information about a book, such as an interview with the author, or a related topic being discussed, as well as photos of book club meetings, and browse recommendations from members and the site`s staff.
Customer reviews are posted along with the summary of each book, CD or video. "Customer reviews are always good, even if negative," says Lanae Paaverud, a board member of the Internet Merchants Association, a Wellington, Fla.-based non-profit trade association for e-commerce companies. "Not everyone loves a book and that helps shoppers make up their mind."
Indigo`s Love of Reading Foundation, which was created to raise money to fund the purchase of books for school libraries in Canada, has committed $4.5 million to schools. Ten schools are selected annually to receive up to $150,000 over a three-year period for books and literacy programs.
On the merchandising side, shoppers can check on inventory in their local store on each product page. "That`s something Amazon can`t offer," says Daugherty. "Instant gratification can be an amazing differentiator." Back to Top
Textbooks to go
With the advent of the web, e-commerce sites like eCampus.com have altered the textbook purchasing process forever. ECampus.com, part of Lexington, Ky.-based A Book Co. LLC, has become a destination for buyers and sellers and developed innovative ways for students and schools to provide books and other materials.
ECampus.com is a visually appealing site with options laid out clearly. In addition to selling and buying new and used college textbooks, eCampus.com has developed a book-selling platform for students that bypasses the store; an affiliate program aimed at students; and a virtual bookstore that enables schools to establish a branded virtual bookstore for a cut of the action while the retailer handles all the logistics.