Doran Robinson previously worked for healthcare information technology vendor athenahealth.
Teaching an old category new tricks
Books, music and DVDs were among the first products retailers sold online when e-commerce took flight in the mid-1990s. And the category gets better with age.
When web retailing began, it was considered advanced if shoppers could search a site by author or artist. Now Hot 100 books, music and film web retailers such as DeepDiscount.com, Fandango.com, Netflix.com, Scholastic.com and Shortcovers.com keep rolling out a steady stream of new features that include digital downloads and mobile commerce.
Timeliness is a highlight of the customer experience at DeepDiscount.com where shoppers can purchase videos of old shows such as “V” tied in with the debuts of new remakes for up to 60% off the regular price, while at Scholastic.com parents can personalize their views of educational materials, interact with teachers and chart their children’s academic progress.
At Fandango.com movie buffs now use their smartphones to purchase tickets, watch movie trailers and catch up on entertainment news. And at Netflix.com, a frequent Hot 100 retailer, the site has been updated with even more advanced personalization and a new movie recommendation engine.
The future of the books/music/film category is digital delivery, and Hot 100 retailers are moving quickly to take advantage of this emerging opportunity. Today, 42% of Netflix customers stream content at least once a quarter, up from 22% a year ago. This year Indigo Books & Music Inc. leapt into the burgeoning market for digital books with abandon, creating Shortcovers.com, a robust site offering a wide variety of e-books and other publications.
Timeliness is a highlight of the customer experience at Deep Discount.com, which sells DVDs, CDs, books and more and this year built Facebook and Twitter pages. On Nov. 3, the day the new series “V” debuted, the home page featured a box displaying 60% off the price of the original “V” series. Next to that box is another, featuring the impending release of the new “Star Trek” film with a link to a “Star Trek” store within a store. The home page is as deep as the name for shoppers wanting to browse; conversely, site navigation enables quick drill-downs. And there’s a deal of the day to keep customers coming back. “We don’t offer bells and whistles,” says David Barker, senior vice president of marketing, “so it’s very important that we offer customers a fast and easy method to search and shop.”
There are basically three types of online movie ticket buyers: customers who want to get in and out in seconds, those who want to read a little about a movie and then buy, and those who want to immerse themselves in everything film. Fandango.com serves them all well. Those in a rush can buy tickets in a handful of clicks, while others can browse through detailed plot synopses and other film information, trailers, blogs, entertainment news and much more. The same is true of its slick mobile app and m-commerce site. “Fandango is making a concerted effort in mobile in response to the needs of our consumers,” says CEO Chuck Davis. “Increasingly consumers are demanding to have access to their favorite web sites away from the PC, and Fandango wants to be a part of that change.”
Netflix Inc. is breaking ground on two fronts. The e-retailer has improved its recommendation accuracy, largely through the Netflix Prize contest that set researchers around the world to work at improving the Netflix personalization system in hopes of winning a $1 million price. Netflix awarded the grand prize this year, but the contest had already paid off, because Netflix had been awarding $50,000 annual progress awards and incorporating the new ideas. The result: Netflix says it can predict twice as accurately how customers will like a movie. The second front is digital streaming. The company has made deals with hardware manufacturers so customers can instantly watch movies on computers and TVs. Today, 42% of Netflix customers stream content at least once a quarter, up from 22% a year ago.
Scholastic Inc. wants parents keeping their COOL. Scholastic has upgraded its web-based book club-Club Ordering Online-and Scholastic.com to include more parent-oriented features, in addition to those aimed at teachers and kids. COOL and Scholastic.com feature new tools for parents to use to research books and educational materials, interact with teachers and chart their children’s academic progress. Parents now can create customized pages that will display grade-specific products and information, track homework assignments, and offer a library of free downloadable learning material. “By concentrating more on parents, we are shifting from a focus on business-to-business to more business-to-consumer,” says Judy Newman, Scholastic executive vice president and president of Scholastic Book Clubs.
Indigo Books & Music Inc. this year leapt into the burgeoning market for digital books with abandon, creating Shortcovers.com, a robust site offering a wide variety of e-books and other publications. The highlight is the home page, a good example of a web merchant making presentation more dynamic by letting consumers change page content to suit their tastes, without the need for a page refresh. For instance, a consumer viewing books can switch to poems and only the text and images in that section changes, without the home page refreshing. Same for going from today’s top titles to last month’s. “The more page refreshes a user has to go through, the higher probability you lose that customer,” says Michael Serbinis, head of Shortcovers. “It’s purely about delivering a great experience that drives conversion.”