Battle of the Books

It’s time for the holidays again and my favorite gifts to give are books. There is one for everyone and a trip to a bookstore can often be a one stop shop for all my holiday shopping needs. For the past few years now, I have stopped physically going to the bookstore and started exclusively shopping online. I often find myself deciding between Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders.  If I buy books for myself, I almost always buy from Amazon which is so convenient, but when I buy for others and there is a chance of a return occurring I tend to prefer the stores that have a physical presence to make it easier for the receiver.  So I was curious to see how the web traffic for these two large book retailers compare and what insights I could gain from Compete PRO.

It is easy to see that in general Barnes and Noble is getting almost double the traffic as Borders. B&N has been around much longer and is bigger. If I look at the referring traffic, I see that that Barnes and Noble also tends to be winning the search game. Much of Barnes and Noble traffic comes from Google and other search portals.

About the only category where Borders fares better than B&N is with email referrals. They certain do a lot of email marketing and it does bring people to their site.

Once a visitor is on one of the two sites, they tend to stay on Barnes and Noble longer (approximately 9 minutes and 15 seconds for vs 7 minutes and 30  minutes for and visit more pages (about 3 more pages), but that’s not necessarily good news for B&N. People may be staying longer or visiting more pages because it is harder to find what they are looking for, but it could also just mean that B&N has a greater selection. No conclusions can really be drawn there. Regardless, the time they spend on the site is more which is often desirable for retailers.

If I were doing the marketing at Borders, I would pay more attention to search and see if I have some influence there. The other thing I might do is invest some more in the social channels. From the referring traffic, it doesn’t feel like either one has taken advantage of social media or blogs. That could be a differentiator that would be useful to Borders and may be easy to do given the content in books, music, etc. Personally, I prefer Borders again because it is convenient for the recipients of to return just given their local locations, but this is a case of zero product differentiation and therefore marketing becomes extra impactful. Hopefully Borders can gain some steam in the near future and make things interesting.

About Alo Mukerji:
Alo Mukerji is the Managing Director of Product Strategy at Compete. At Compete she is responsible for identifying new product opportunities and long-term product roadmap. Before Alo joined the Compete team she worked at Constant Contact where she helped to expand the product suite beyond email marketing. Alo specializes in new product selection and definition, product management, and product pricing. She can be found on LinkedIn at