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ATouch of Magic


After a seven-year leave of absence from its e-commerce venture, previously hosted and sold Borders’ products on its site, but the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based bookseller wanted to bring its online presence back home, and it knew it had to differentiate its brand to stand out and make a splash in the crowded marketplace.

In May, Borders launched a series of innovative online features to truly capture customer attention. Not only do these features keep shoppers on the site, they keep them coming back for more.

The most dynamic feature is dubbed “The Magic Shelf.” Powered by Cambridge, Mass.-based software company Allurent, Borders’ Magic Shelf is a three-dimensional wooden shelf of actual book, CD and DVD covers virtually displayed as they would be in a store. Consumers can scroll up and down the shelf to look at book covers and click for more details. Shoppers can then add any item to their shopping cart.

Over time, The Magic Shelf becomes personalized based on past purchases. It displays products catered specifically to each person and what he or she might be interested in buying.

Magic Shelf also has a “Picked for You” feature where customers can indicate subjects of interest, from science fiction to audio books. “Picked for You” then highlights books on those subjects. frequently updates the shelf to keep it timely. Whether it’s for an upcoming holiday or reacting to the sudden deaths of director Sydney Pollack and NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, the company responds to the influx of site searches by updating and showcasing the books on the homepage.

In addition to the Magic Shelf, focused on search capabilities and navigation to weed through its selection of about 2 million new books, 400,000 CDs and 100,000 movies, as well as used, out-of-print and rare titles through its “Borders Marketplace” section under a partnership with Emeryville, Calif.-based . The new tools help customers browse categories online and filter searches in several different ways, such as price and format.

Other winning features include customer and employee reviews and recommendations for all products, as well as a wish-list tool that allows customers to select items they would like to buy or receive as gifts. This feature includes the capability to e-mail the list to friends and family.

The site has an engaging and lively “Book Club” section with streaming video of author interviews. And the “Live at 01” section, which is filmed at Borders’ first store in Ann Arbor, Mich., includes readings, interviews and performances from notables such as Bill Clinton and David Sedaris.

To further give customers a deeper look into the authors they love, the site features a “Guest Short List” where acclaimed authors share their favorite picks for reading, watching and listening.

Despite all of these features, the interface remains clean and sleek. may have been out of the e-commerce scene for the past seven years, but the new site shows it hasn’t missed a beat.

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