Borders goes back online: where’s the mobile app?

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Borders’ seven-year online marriage to Amazon is back in the separation phase. For the first time since 2001, you can actually order books, DVD’s and music from the company itself on your computer, even as Borders admits it is pursuing a possible sale of the company. Its CEO tells the Associated Press that a sale won’t matter; a web presence will be necessary for the bookseller’s business model no matter who owns Borders.

Most analysts say Borders still has a fight on its hands with Amazon for the hearts and minds of booklovers everywhere. Jeff Bezos’ company remains the 800-pound gorilla in cyberspace and with new ventures like the Kindle e-reader and Amazon Web Services for developers, it’s aiming at new levels of influence within the overall technology industry.

Borders’ new, easy-to-navigate website with a “magic shelf” for staff-chosen recommendations is a good first step, but if the company hopes to make an online strategy succeed – while hanging on to most bricks-and-mortar locations – it will have to get its software engineers working on innovative mobile applications. Borders’ existing incentive programs, like rewards and coupons, need to find a destination on cell phones and other handheld devices and the company should find a way to allow immediate redemption as consumers check their email via phone as they walk by a store. The company wouldn’t even have to use Bluetooth for redemption; clerks could just record the redemption code off the consumers’ cell phone screen. We know that new wireless and software technologies will soon allow retailers to beam coupons directly to cell phones when they get within range of a store. All this will obviously require more money and R&D investment, perhaps provided by deep-pocketed new owners, whoever they may be.

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