THE BUYER Eleanor Trickett, Campaign
Eleanor Trickett continues the series in which Campaign staff test a
product or service against the promise of its marketing. This month,
seduced by friends’ promises of a great experience, she uses her newly
found Internet prowess to visit Amazon.com, the Seattle-based online
book and CD store.
Three million titles, the home page says, so how do I make up my
Obviously, Amazon.com couldn’t bung its three million titles into a
single alphabetical list and let the customer get on with it, but I
always panic when asked to classify my literary taste.
There are plenty of widgets to point me in the right direction,
There’s even a section entitled ’Oprah has chosen!’, informing me of the
chat show queen’s favourite books.
I decline to order her choices and go, parsimoniously, straight to Book
Bargains, having grasped the easy navigation system. On arrival, I found
it rather refreshing not to be able to judge a book by its cover. One
might otherwise miss such gems of titles as the Complete Book of Dried
Flower Topiaries. There’s something for everyone, and I put an
attractive Modigliani book in my shopping trolley.
As my browsing continues, I become aware that Amazon. com belongs to the
Ben & Jerry’s school of touchy-feely business ethics. There’s a bit that
invites subscribers to submit an online review, and a dedicated button
with which the author or publisher can reply. An invitation to ’Join our
Community!’ explains how its franchise system works and, by the time I
reach ’Join our Staff!’, I start fantasising about living in
Amazon.com comes into its own when you get to the CDs. I order a handful
of titles with relish. However, the shipping cost of the books mean I
have to remove the Modigliani from my shopping trolley. It’s cheaper to
get lots of books than just one and my ’must read’ list is not long
enough to make it worth my while. However, the CDs - even with a
shipping cost roughly on a par with the ridiculous prices UK companies
charge to plonk a parcel on your doormat - are still cheap enough to
make up for my disappointment.
Definitely an experience to repeat.
THE SELLER Bill Curry, Amazon.com
Amazon.com has been trading over the Internet since 1994 and has
recently bought Bookpages, a UK-based online bookshop. Amazon.com’s
acclaimed friendly and human approach to business seems to have spread
seamlessly to its PR.Here, Bill Curry, the director of PR at Amazon.com,
effortlessly ignores Eleanor’s praise and criticism and instead tells us
how wonderful the organisation is.
Amazon.com is designed to help you find exactly what you want and to
help you discover things you didn’t know you wanted. Left to her own
devices and without any prompting, Eleanor experienced many of the key
features of Amazon.com. For example, if you know you want Tom Clancy’s
new thriller, Rainbow Six, you can easily find the book with a key word
search. If you are in the mood for some music but don’t know a
particular artist or album, you can go to Moodmatcher and discover the
right CD for you. Our other reminders, bestseller lists, recommendations
and notification features are similarly designed to make suggestions for
books and music that you might otherwise miss.
At Amazon.com, all books get equal treatment, so obscure titles, books
from small publishers and hard-to-find books are equally accessible. We
also create bestseller lists for book categories to help you find just
the right book. The usual top ten bestseller list of blockbusters isn’t
much help if you are looking for a good cook book or a popular
children’s book. We can tell you which are the bestsellers and other
readers can tell you what they thought of them. Because we want
customers to have an enjoyable reading or music experience, we even run
negative customer reviews. The object is not to sell a book or CD. It is
to sell a book or CD you will enjoy or that may even change your
As for fantasising about living in Seattle - in April, Amazon.com
acquired Bookpages, one of the largest online bookstores in the UK,
providing access to all 1.2 million UK books in print.
So, Eleanor, instead of visiting us in Seattle, you can visit us at