Spotlight: An interview with Marie Toulantis, CEO, BarnsandNoble.com

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Q: What was the initiative behind the redesign of Barnes & Noble's Web site?

A: The initiative was really to make the site more engaging, to make it more interactive and to try to bring a lot of the new Web technologies to enable us to do that. We decided to basically use a lot of AJAX tools and Flash tools because we wanted to make things more interactive and also to eliminate the need to have people keep paging through, clicking through and getting new pages.

Q: How are you using Web 2.0 technology on the site to promote books and other products?

A: Our homepage has "Our picks this week," which is a scrolling flash about new books of the week that we think will be interesting for people to look at. It has books, DVDs and music, and runs the gamut from children's books to new fiction releases to new literary releases and so forth.

It gives users the ability to stop, scroll across a page, mouse over a product for a description and then be able to add it to the cart right there. We chose this technology because we thought it would be very easy and also intuitive for customers, as well as provide them with the ability to conduct everything right there, right off that page.

Q: So it is easier for the customers to engage with the new site?

A: Yes. We are creating a media center for people to interact with us through the Web. The Barnes & Noble Media Web site is a collection of interviews with artists and authors that we do on location and also tape in our store.

One of the things that we hear from our customers is, "Hey, I live in a place where the nearest store might be around the corner, or it might be 20 miles away or 50 miles away, and we really want to be able to see what is going on in your store." So this is something that we felt could bring the Barnes & Noble store right to the customer's living room, right to their desktops, laptops or handheld devices.

Q: So you are bringing the store to the customer via the Web. Does this work the other way around? Is the new site designed to drive sales in stores as well?

A: The Web site is tied to the stores. The site includes all the locations, addresses and events going on at stores at all times. In addition we have a store availability feature, so if a customer is looking for a specific book, they will be able to see if that book is at their local Barnes & Noble store by entering a ZIP code.

Q: Amazon is a big player in your space and Borders just announced that it is going to open a new e-commerce store. How do you deal with competition?

A: By doing the best job that we can at what we do well, which is selling books and providing good service to our customers. Being excellent at what we do and providing a great experience for our customers and being able to deliver on our promises. That's the only thing you can do.

Q: Should we expect anything new from the site in the coming months?

A: Always new, the answer is yes, more and more. This is only the beginning. n

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