Richard Weatherford holds a Ph.D. in English from UCLA, has been a bookseller and publisher for 36 years, was a co-founder of the first pre-Internet online computer system for books, and is the founder of Alibris. This is his Alibris newsletter column for sellers.
The wisdom of our shared customers leads to better sales
It is not uncommon for sellers to write to Alibris saying something like, "Why am I not getting orders? Colleagues in the book business are doing very well on Alibris, and some of them are getting repeat orders from the same customers, but I can't seem to get the order volume they do. What am I doing wrong?"
Whether you are selling scarce and rare books or more contemporary in-print, new, and used books, certain factors attract the attention of buyers and encourage them to purchase. Most of these are pretty obvious, but I think it is worth mentioning what we hear from customers and what we see in terms of the criteria customers use when deciding to buy.
Customer satisfaction. For customers, the Internet can seem like an impersonal place to shop, but for many items, especially books, music, and movies, there is far more selection online than at any retail store. So when customers have a positive shopping experience, they are very likely to return to the site and even to the specific seller for repeat purchases. Furthermore, they are likely to tell friends, neighbors, and colleagues about their experience and, in doing so, recommend Alibris and the seller they purchased from.
High fill rates. The best way to lose a sale is to disappoint a customer. Keeping inventory up-to-date can be especially difficult for book shops and sellers with lots of inventory, but making sure that books sold off-line and at other sites are quickly removed from Alibris is crucial to getting repeat sales and to retaining a high fill rate.
Prompt shipping. Receiving an ordered item when it's expected is especially important to buyers. Buyers expect, and deserve, timely delivery of their purchases, and when they don't get it, they tend not to order again. Most successful sellers I talk with tell me they ship within one business day, and many ship the same day.
Accurate descriptions. Correct item information is important because it represents a promise the seller has made to the buyer. Sellers who describe the condition of a book, CD, or DVD as better than it is not only disappoint the customer but may get the item returned.
Customer satisfaction and loyalty are essential to survival on the Internet, and it's what sets our marketplace apart from the competition—especially when the going (and the economy) gets rough.