Buy.com Hops on Free Shipping Bandwagon

In a sign that Amazon.com‘s (Nasdaq: AMZN) free shipping offer may be pressuring other e-tailers, Buy.com has announced it is offering a similar deal to its shoppers.

Purchasers at Buy.com’s Web site can receive free shipping on certain items if they spend US$99 or more, the same terms Amazon offers. Buy.com also is offering free shipping on large orders for products purchased through its new magazine, which it unveiled Tuesday.

The magazine, which Buy.com said will contain articles and product reviews as well as special offers, is offered to anyone who signs up on the company’s Web site. Aliso Viejo, California-based Buy.com said the magazine will launch with a circulation of 5 million.

Company founder Scott Blum said that through the magazine, “Buy.com has redefined the way e-tailers communicate with their customers.”

Head to Head

Buy.com competes with Amazon primarily in the electronics arena, where Buy.com has consistently been ranked highly by customers. Both e-tailers also sell DVDs, books, software and magazines.

Analysts have speculated that Amazon’s declaration that it will indefinitely extend its free shipping deal, first tested during the 2001 holiday season, could pressure its direct competitors to consider matching or beating the offer.

In fact, Forrester Research analyst Christopher Kelley singled out Buy.com as one company in Amazon’s sights with the policy.

“Amazon applied a lot of pressure to other companies in their space to take another look at their shipping policies,” Kelley told the E-Commerce Times.

Not at Newsstands

In the meantime, Buy.com is hoping its magazine marketing campaign, which will feature special low-price offers, will help keep customers from wandering away.

The magazine will feature products from the Buy.com Web site, “supporting editorial,” and ads from such companies as Visa, Cingular Wireless and NEC-Mitsubishi, according to Buy.com president Robert Price.

Plans call for four editions of the magazine to be published each year.

Second Coming

Buy.com is trying to find new life as a privately held company. Last summer, Blum announced he would buy back control of the e-tailer, which went public during the dot-com heyday, for just pennies per share.

Days later, however, Buy.com faced the prospect of a shutdown after its credit card processor said it would sever ties with the company.

But Blum successfully rescued the company with a cash infusion. The e-tailer clocked modest traffic growth during the 2001 holiday season but was bumped from the ranks of the top online shopping sites — it ranked 10th overall in 2000 — by brick-and-mortar newcomers, according to data from Jupiter Media Metrix (Nasdaq: JMXI).

Buy.com also has used a series of promotions and publicity stunts to drive traffic to its site, giving away a $5,000 shopping spree during the holiday season and a Porsche earlier this year.

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