November 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Books/Film/Music Making buying even easier

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There`s no mystery about`s mission once a visitor lands on the home page. The most prime position and biggest design element carries a simple message: Find new & used books. It also provides a form to enter book search details such as title, author and keyword. "It`s a very prominent feature and a good strategy," says Georgianne Brown, former executive of and now a consultant with South Florida-based Big Couch Media Group, a newly formed company specializing in e-commerce.

Visitors seeking books are sped on their way, but the e-commerce site offers more products and services for those who have greater needs. "The main focus is textbooks and that`s what the site is about, but they have done a nice job of cross-selling ancillary products, such as supplies and apparel," Brown says.

Product landing pages not only offer discounted pricing on most textbooks, the checkout process can spark the buying process. When adding books in short supply to the cart, a box appears indicating how many copies remain available at the price. "Instilling that sense of urgency drives conversion," Brown says. believes that web sites ought to be fun. One of their best ideas is posting the evolution of the business`s home page in the virtual bookstore section. Not only does it show design stages, the progression indicates a continually refined focus on marketing its core products. Back to Top

Plastic and digital has an FYI for online music shoppers: "We see the future and it is digital.", a part of Trans World Entertainment Corp. in Albany, N.Y., and the e-commerce arm of the For Your Entertainment chain of stores, already stocks a large inventory of more than 1.4 million CDs, DVDs, books and games.

But the multi-channel retailer is also making a concerted effort to diversify its digital products and offer shoppers more download options. Put another way: plastic is hip, but digital is hipper. On, online music shoppers can purchase more than 3 million downloads, including many songs in an MP3 format. Shoppers also are able to download movies or TV shows and have a custom DVD mixed and burned. Most orders are shipped in 48 hours.

"The day after Barry Bonds broke his home run record, had a DVD available on the site," says Trans World vice president of online marketing and customer relationship management David Dwek. "We`re also doing something similar for music."

FYE began equipping its chain of 1,000 music stores with CD mix-and-burn tools three years ago. Today shoppers can also go online to to pre-order music, games or videos and purchase more than 1,000 hard-to-find and out-of-print movies or TV shows.

"We are beginning to bundle physical and digital products," Dwek says. "As the largest multi-channel retailer of music, movies and video games, customers can buy the CD in an F.Y.E. store and download the digital file at home or pre-order a CD and purchase the single online."

F.Y.E. is using the web and different web-based product offerings to compete in a crowded online retail space. "We`re competing against 1,000-pound gorillas such as Amazon, Wal-Mart or Best Buy and we don`t compete only on price," Dwek says.

E-commerce analysts like for its focus and diversity. "Unlike other larger e-retailers that want to sell you everything, stays focused on its entertainment catalog and the diversity of both physical and digital products," says Molecular Inc. senior design consultant Will Evans. Back to Top

Delivering to customers

Netflix created the market for renting movies by mail and continues to lead: It reported 6.8 million subscribers in Q1 2007 while competitor Blockbuster reported 3 million. What`s more, the company projects net income for 2007 will be up more than 30% over 2006, and that it likely will end the year with more than 7.5 million subscribers.

Los Gatos, Calif.-based Netflix attributes its success to steady, incremental changes to its operations and site. Sometimes the changes make news, like this summer`s decision to abandon e-mail customer support in favor of telephone call centers, based in the U.S. rather than offshore. "As we`ve become more mainstream and started to appeal to people who may not be computer experts," a spokesman says, "it`s better for our subscribers to have someone to talk to, and in their time zone."

Sometimes changes are less visible, like adding delivery centers so more subscribers get their DVDs the next day. The company will have more than 50 delivery centers by the end of the month.

The biggest change, though, is the ability to deliver movies directly to a subscriber`s computer for online viewing, and the planned extension of that ability to a subscriber`s TV in 2008. More than 5,000 movies now are available for computer delivery. The main obstacle to growth is existing licensing agreements between movie studios and broadcasters.

Ultimately, it is Netflix`s site design, movie ratings, and Web 2.0 technology and social offerings that are the company`s trump cards. The non-member home page, for example, focuses successfully on acquiring new customers, says Craig Smith, founder of consulting firm Trinity Insight.

"They do a great job of making the site simple to help first-time visitors understand how the service works," he says. "The navigation bar is focused on enticing a new customer to engage in a free trial. They use big, bold buttons for their calls to action. And the `How it works` page does a tremendous job of thinking in the user`s shoes by providing clear, easy-to-digest writing on the specifics of cost, assortment and shipping." Back to Top

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