The virtual bookstore is one area of Internet commerce to exploit fully the benefits of selling online (see Breakthrough, page 106).
Bookpages is an online bookshop where you can choose from a database of 90,000 British titles. It claims to offer something for everyone with an interest in books.
The site is extremely easy to navigate. Visitors can use the search facility if they know what book they want, leisurely browse the featured titles in each category (business, crime, children, sci-fi, fantasy and so on), or opt for the current Bookpages Choice.
Searching for a specific book is easy. Type in the title, author, ISBN or any keyword and it will come up with the required title. You also get details of all other books by the same author, in both hardback and paperback. The book database is updated every month and also includes a range of audio books.
By taking a look at what?s in each category you will start to get a feel for how Bookpages is trying to capture the attention of potential customers ? and keep them. Each one includes a featured book, with a description and a list of new or other recommended titles. A nice touch is the ?editor? for each genre, who invites customers to get in contact and encourages them to contribute their own reviews and opinions to make it a truly interactive arena.
Postage is #1.50 per book and Bookpages promises to deliver within two working days of the order in the UK; European delivery is #2 per book. As a bonus, if you fill up your virtual shopping basket with enough books ? over #25 worth ? delivery is free. Overseas customers can also order books in their local currency.
Webmasters can turn their own sites into a virtual branch of Bookpages with the Branch Scheme: Bookpages set it up, taking the orders and delivering the books, while the virtual outlet receives a commission on the books sold via their site. Already, 25 per cent of sales are generated in this way.
Many companies exploring the commercial possibilities of the Internet are now realising the importance of providing far more than ?brochureware?. Anything less than interactive simply won?t succeed.
?Brand loyalty is not such a factor for Internet users?
Launched in October last year, the Bookpages team worked with designers at Triptych Systems taking under two months to come up with a site which they hoped would be a ?whole new experience? for book lovers.
Orders started picking up at the beginning of this year and the company started turning a profit, all of which is being ploughed back into development. This includes improving the range of services on offer, the look of the site and boosting the eight-strong payroll.
Marketing is handled by Judith Catton who says that UK orders account for about 30 per cent of their sales, with 30-35 per cent from the US and Canada. ?We sell a lot of fiction, particularly science fiction and fantasy.?
Competition is stiff from US-based Amazon.com which has a database of 2.5 million books. To compete, Bookpages is constantly updating its site to make book buying a more exciting experience. It already offers visitors the chance to read extracts before they buy and a loyalty bonus points scheme. The aim is to go beyond a catalogue and develop a club for book lovers.
Catton is not worried about competition from the online versions of well-known brands like Waterstone?s. ?There is plenty of room on the Web for lots of companies,? says Catton. ?Brand loyalty is not such a factor for Internet users.?
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