Alibris Has A Sale
Here are a few suggestions Alibris and the others might consider. A $1 discount is great on a book that costs a couple of dollars, but is not much incentive on a more expensive book. Perhaps a sliding scale or percentage discount could extend the reach of that incentive. Alibris will still make more on a $100 book after a $5 discount than on a $2.95 one after a $1 discount. It is also wise to make use of deadlines. People act when they know a deal is about to end, but can put off action indefinitely if there is no stated ending time. As of this writing, Alibris' AddAll discount is set to expire in two days, but potential buyers don't know that, so there is no urgency for them to buy now! Deadlines are one of the greatest marketing tools ever devised.
Alibris might want to find ways to encourage their dealers to discount, especially with stock that has been sitting around for ages. The listing sites frequently like to brag about their number of listings. Alibris has something like 60 million, Abebooks now claims 90 million. That may sound impressive to some, but to us it signifies a whole lot of books that are not being sold. I'd rather list on a site that has nothing left at the end of the day! Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like eBay's formula. Clear it all out about once a week. Perhaps Alibris could cooperate with dealers on discounts. If they provided matching discounts instead of carrying the whole burden, those $1 discounts would be $2. Of course they would need to be sure their dealers didn't simply raise their prices to pay for their share of the promotion.
In a separate article this month, Bruce McKinney suggests eBay's "Make an offer" button to the listing sites. This enables potential buyers to negotiate on prices. The selling sites have discouraged such negotiations in the past as they have sought to discourage direct seller-buyer contact, obviously from fear of sales being conducted outside of their sites. However, "Make an offer" negotiations could be conducted in anonymity. Booksellers may not want to offer this option on all of their stock, but if something has been sitting around for a few years, it's a safe bet that the price they want is not one the market is willing to pay. Successful retailers understand that when something doesn't sell, it is time to move on. Many booksellers do not yet realize this.
This just scratches the surface. There are unlimited marketing possibilities, and the listing sites and their booksellers are capable of devising enticing new promotions, especially if they work together. It is time to start turning over some of that huge backlog. Congratulations are in order to Alibris for lifting their booksellers on their backs and starting the journey.