Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2006 Issue

Alibris Has A Sale

Ali

Under AddAll's


By Michael Stillman

Those who have been watching the listing sites may have noticed this past month that Alibris has been running a sale. Not a very large or very prominent sale, but in a field where such promotions and active marketing strategies are few and far between, this was an unusual and interesting event. Indeed, having spent many years in the field of direct marketing, it surprises me how little is done by the listing sites to promote sales.

Alibris promoted a $1 off sale for searchers on AddAll. The discount did not apply to regular Alibris purchasers, but for those who found their books through AddAll, a $1 discount code was provided. That may not sound like a lot, particularly if you are buying a $200 book. However, it applied to all orders. If you were buying a minimum, $2.95 book, the discount amounted to 34%. Not bad.

We asked Alibris' A.J. Kohn a few questions about the promotion. He told us that this was not the first such promotion. They have done them before with AddAll and BookFinder. They usually will not do the same promotion on different sites at the same time, but may rotate multiple offers. All promotions are temporary, but Alibris is constantly working on new ones. The $1 AddAll sale was instituted on March 1 and was set to end on March 31.

We asked about the success of the program. Mr. Kohn replied, "I can't give specific figures for this or other campaigns, but in general it's been successful. That being said, promotions will often drive order volume, but we're cognizant not to overuse promotions as a way to derive loyalty." When it comes to the expense of the promotion, Kohn noted that Alibris picked up the full cost. "Alibris picks up 100% of the cost of the promotion - this one or any other Alibris promotion." As for the future, he explained, "We've done this before and will do so in the future, further refining our offer and our targeting. There are some interesting ideas on the horizon for both offer and targeting, but nothing I can mention at this point."

As we said, this is not a promotion that will blow away the people hawking their wares on late-night TV. There's no "But wait!" to sweeten an already huge discount being offered. Nevertheless, it is a step forward in a field for the most part devoid of marketing skills. Certainly it is understandable that the listing sites do not want to turn their sites into bazaars of ever increasing discounts and ever increasing list prices to support those discounts. However, any marketer can tell you that a large percentage of the population needs to feel they are getting a good deal before they are willing to buy, and that is not easy if you never promote sales or discounts. Perception can be as important as the actual price, but there is little to perceive in the way of bargains on the listing sites. What Alibris is doing may not be major, but it is a step, and one marketing step forward in the listing site business is sufficient to make you the leader.

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