Transitions: The new Borders.com

Borders2 On Memorial Day, 2008, with little fanfare, Borders Group, Inc. embarked on a new chapter novel in the history of the company.  And it was most certainly, memorable.  With a few final technical switches thrown, Borders transitioned the outsourcing of their eCommerce site from Amazon to a robust, unique and compelling Borders.com presence.  It's daunting being an internet retailer in 2008, without having access to customer information or control over the multi-channel experience.  Now Borders has brought their .com presence back inside the walls of the headquarters in Ann Arbor, MI. Welcome back home, Borders.com.

The basic design principle of the site is to create a real bookstore experience online.  In this case, the store holds nearly 3 million titles including DVDs and CDs.  In a market where Borders is trying to differentiate itself against competitors, this experience is different and more engaging.  I find myself browsing the site much like I would a store – wander in to a section and drill deeper using the guided navigation.  The Magic Shelf on the homepage gives the same feel of being in a bookstore, complete with staff picks, and goes beyond with personal recommendations based on your preferences.  The look of search results and the Magic Shelf, rich with images of cover artwork, are right in line with Borders' recent strategy to merchandise books with the covers facing out.

I'm biased, I admit it.  Brulant, my company, has played a major role in the Websphere Commerce design and development of this project, along with many other partners.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am currently the client engagement partner for Brulant's work at Borders.  Borders has been a significant client of Brulant since mid 2006.  From February 2007 until now, I personally have spent nearly full time on working with Borders as a client.  I did ask for and receive permission from Borders to blog about this event.

The best part of the culmination of years of work: I couldn't be more thrilled with the outcome.  There has been a lot of "sweat equity" invested by the entire team – Borders, Brulant and other partners alike – and it's rewarding to see it all come together.  There were some hard times and some good times, as any business partnership between two companies would go through.  In the end, there is absolutely nothing more satisfying, invigorating and motivating than when it all comes together, the team produces high quality work, the site is launched, and orders start rolling in. 

For the last several years, Borders' eCommerce team has been looking forward to doing what most eCommerce teams do – interact with customers, fine tune the user experience, adjust functionality based on web analytics and market the bejeezus out of the site.  (The site just launched officially today, so not a lot of heavy marketing of the site yet…but do a Google News search on "Borders.com" and you'll see the extensive press coverage.)  Now the team can take the reins and start the evolution of web commerce optimization.  As much as it is the end of a multi-year project, it's the beginning of a new journey for the company.  Today the entire team on site in Ann Arbor signed a copy of the first order shipped to be framed, to signify the start of that journey (see picture above).

It's a new journey for yours truly as well, as I focus on trying to do more good work for other clients while continuing to figure out ways to help Borders on their journey.  A special thank you to the entire Brulant team who worked through many project challenges and set a high bar for delivery with future clients.  Another thank you to the Borders crowd, who are a passionate and diverse group, fun to work with and gracious hosts for having our team walk the halls.  I think the thing I am most grateful for is the opportunity to continue learning, while being a part of a core strategic initiative for a retailer.  Thank you and Congratulations, job well done.

Special thanks to Kevin Ertell, VP of eBusiness for Borders, for encouraging me to post about this event here. 

UPDATE: Here is Brulant's official press release related to our role with the new Borders.com. 

Please check out the new Borders.com – it is a different experience than your traditional online bookseller.  Feedback, suggestions, comments are welcome. 

The New Borders.com