*Barnes & Noble.com Allies With Seven Retailers In No-Cost Customer Acquisition Deal

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Barnes & Noble.com Inc. yesterday announced it had struck reciprocal marketing deals with seven Internet retailers to reach each others' customers at zero acquisition cost.

The complementary arrangement allows bn.com links of special offers to appear on the post-transactional pages of jcrew.com, VitaminShoppe.com, PETsMART.com, PlanetRx.com, 1800flowers.com, Expedia.com and L. L. Bean's site.

In all, New York-based bn.com will gain access to 10 million visitors who access these sites each month.

"Affiliate marketing typically includes links while people are on a site," said Carl Rosendorf, senior vice president at Barnes & Noble.com. "The premise behind this program is that once someone is done shopping on a site, they're now ready to move on in some direction and at that point we give them the offer. So, there's less clutter, less interference."

The participating online retailers will also include bn.com links and Web address in banners, package inserts and catalogs. Bn.com will do the same for them in its consumer communications, but the companies will not share that reciprocal relationship among themselves. So, jcrew.com will not have a similar deal with Expedia or VitaminShoppe.com with 1800flowers.com.

Bn.com will test this program over two months for spikes in consumer traffic and resultant revenue. Based on that, it may either curtail or include other partners as well. Of the selected partners, it has had an affiliate relationship with only PlanetRx and Expedia. Overall, bn.com boasts more than 300,000 revenue-for-traffic affiliate relationships.

A number of metrics were compared for selecting these seven retailers as partners, bn.com's Rosendorf said.

"First off, we were looking for non-competitive sites and we were looking for a cross-section of products," he said. "Then we took a look at how much traffic these sites get, what percentage of the traffic was unduplicated to bn.com and what other marketing asset they have that we could connect into that could enable us to acquire as many customers in this program."

Interestingly, this move comes soon after the company quietly changed its corporate name Feb. 8 from barnesandnoble.com Inc. to Barnes & Noble.com Inc. The new name is similar to Barnes & Noble Inc., the nation's largest bricks-and-mortar bookseller that owns 40 percent of the online company.

"This was done to show the brand heritage of our parent company, Barnes & Noble Inc.," said Lisa Lanspery, spokesman of Barnes & Noble.com, alluding to the increasingly closer ties between the online and offline operations.

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