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

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  • Sally

    Adam – Thanks to you and the Brulant team for helping to make this happen – we really could not have done it without you! I already miss you guys!

  • Sally

    Adam – Thanks to you and the Brulant team for helping to make this happen – we really could not have done it without you! I already miss you guys!

  • Hi Adam,
    I have to agree the redesign is wonderful and seems plenty of work went into it. The only are that may need addressing is the lower left block “most popular at Borders.com for Safari 3.0.4 browser on a mac. The links are highlighted light orange. The artifacts that run into each of those highlighted areas are words that read.
    In Safari there are also rendering issues with the Borders-Media huge banner bellow the magic shelf. The 4 circles and pause button on mac are being cut in half. There are 2 rows. The top row shows the left half, bottom row shows the right half of each of the circles.
    “Books Music DVD” it seems the longer the link more text is showing up. I tested Opera, Firefox, in mac and PC. IE in PC and Safari on Mac.
    That was my first impression when I first visited the site using Safari. That led me test on other browsers. I haven’t gone deeper but I hope this sheds some light on the mac/win safari client base.
    Great launch, best of luck.

  • Hi Adam,

    I have to agree the redesign is wonderful and seems plenty of work went into it. The only are that may need addressing is the lower left block “most popular at Borders.com for Safari 3.0.4 browser on a mac. The links are highlighted light orange. The artifacts that run into each of those highlighted areas are words that read.

    In Safari there are also rendering issues with the Borders-Media huge banner bellow the magic shelf. The 4 circles and pause button on mac are being cut in half. There are 2 rows. The top row shows the left half, bottom row shows the right half of each of the circles.

    “Books Music DVD” it seems the longer the link more text is showing up. I tested Opera, Firefox, in mac and PC. IE in PC and Safari on Mac.

    That was my first impression when I first visited the site using Safari. That led me test on other browsers. I haven’t gone deeper but I hope this sheds some light on the mac/win safari client base.

    Great launch, best of luck.

  • Congrats to the Borders and Brulant team. No doubt a massively complex undertaking. The overall experience is quite intuitive.
    Nice work folks

  • Congrats to the Borders and Brulant team. No doubt a massively complex undertaking. The overall experience is quite intuitive.

    Nice work folks

  • Matthew Loewengart

    Got my $5 off coupon and immediately ran to the site to check it out. Had to smile b/c the site looks great and i could say “my high-school buddy did that”
    Nice work.

  • Matthew Loewengart

    Got my $5 off coupon and immediately ran to the site to check it out. Had to smile b/c the site looks great and i could say “my high-school buddy did that”

    Nice work.

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