ABA Launches Test on IndieBound.org

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 Aim is to increase traffic to member stores, e-commerce sites

On Tuesday, October 27, the American Booksellers Association launched a test designed to increase traffic to member stores — and to their e-commerce websites — by improving the online shopping experience for an initial purchase on IndieBound.org. Following the purchase, customers will be directed in several ways to nearby ABA bricks-and-mortar stores for future purchases.

In addition to the zip code store search already in place, IndieBound.org now offers customers the option of purchasing a book directly from its product page. Data has shown that, almost exclusively, these customers are coming from sites that are not indie bookstores or their affiliates, and they are currently not buying titles in the indie channel, even as the number of visitors to IndieBound.org has grown substantially. One of the primary goals of the test is to see if — after a successful, one-time purchase on IndieBound.org — these customers can be brought into the indie channel as return buyers at their local independent bookstores.

When choosing “Buy Now” on IndieBound.org, customers will be routed through an indie-branded shopping cart and fulfillment flow, and sales tax will be collected in all applicable states. All the messaging associated with the purchase — web pages, confirmation e-mails, packing slips, package inserts with Indie Next List recommendations — will emphasize and direct the customer to nearby indie bookstores; messaging will include store names and cities. Customers will also receive an e-mail thank-you within a week from the ship date of the book, which will again offer suggestions and links to the five closest indie bookstores. Click-throughs on links in the e-mail will provide details on the traffic generated to ABA member websites. ABA has partnered with AddLibra, a company that provides white label e-commerce solutions, to provide e-commerce functionality for the test. While generating revenue is not a goal of the test, should any profits be realized they will go toward supporting indie bookstores.

In an e-mail to IndieCommerce stores on Tuesday, ABA CEO Oren Teicher explained that, though there has been a significant uptick in both the number of locations and sales in the independent bookstore market and the number of overall visitors and links and referrals to IndieBound.org have increased, the conversion rate of IndieBound.org visits to book sales through IndieCommerce stores has been very low. “Very few customers who arrive at IndieBound.org take the extra steps necessary on the site to find an IndieCommerce website, and, as a result, they are leaving the community of independent bookstores empty-handed,” Teicher wrote. “These potential book buyers don’t yet have a local favorite indie. To reverse the trend, and to encourage these new customers to shop indie more frequently, the ABA Board has authorized this test.”

ABA will evaluate the test results and will report back to members in approximately six months. Two key signs of success would be an increase in the conversion rate for book sales at IndieBound.org, and, more importantly, increased customer traffic and sales to ABA member stores, both online and in bricks-and-mortar locations.

Questions about this effort to further grow sales across the indie channel should be addressed to Teicher.