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BigCommerce
In this Bigcommerce review we take a look at one of the most popular e-commerce solutions currently available. Like Shopify and Volusion, it regularly features in ‘top five’ lists of online store builders. In this post I'll walk you through some key Bigcommerce features to help you see if it's the right online store builder for you.

WHAT IS BIGCOMMERCE?

Bigcommerce is a paid-for e-commerce solution that allows business owners to set up an online store and sell their products online. It comes with a range of customisable templates to help you design your store; you can sell either physical or digital goods; and there are also some tools provided to help you market your store. The product is aimed primarily at people without much in the way of web design skills, but it also allows more advanced users to tweak the HTML and CSS of their sites too.

BIGCOMMERCE PRICING

Bigcommerce offer four different plans:

Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month

Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month

Bigcommerce Pro: $199.95 per month

Bigcommerce Enterprise: pricing varies, depending on your business requirements

The 'standard', 'plus' and 'pro' plans are aimed at individuals and small businesses; the Enterprise plan is geared more towards large businesses and corporates (users with very high bandwidth / advanced functionality requirements).

BIGCOMMERCE STANDARD

Bigcommerce's cheapest offering, the 'standard' plan, costs $29.95 a month and as such is a significantly more expensive than the equivalent starter plans offered by competitors Shopify and Volusion ($9 and $15 respectively) - but that said it is a much more comprehensive starter plan than either of those plans, providing a fully functional website, unlimited products, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, gift cards and ratings and reviews functionality. You get an awful lot of e-commerce bang for your buck.

(By comparison, the Shopify 'Lite' plan doesn't actually let you build a fully functional website - it is geared towards users who want to either set up a store on Facebook or use the Shopify backend in conjunction with a simple 'buy now' button or point-of-sale applications. Volusion’s starter plan comes with monthly limits on data transfer and limits you to selling 100 products. A fairer comparison would be to stack the silver plan up against Shopify’s ‘basic’ plan or Volusion’s ‘plus’ plan.)

There is an annual sales limit for Bigcommerce Standard of $50,000.

BIGCOMMERCE PLUS

As you move up the pricing structure ladder, you encounter 'Bigcommerce Plus'. This plan provides more functionality than the standard plan, including, crucially, their abandoned cart saver tool (more on that later). Other key differences between this plan and 'Bigcommerce Standard' include pricing rules for customer groups (this allows you to provide discounts to specific customers) and advanced pricing rules.

The annual sales limit for Bigcommerce Plus is $125,000.

BIGCOMMERCE PRO

A relatively new addition to the mix is 'Bigcommerce Pro'. The significant additional functionality gained by 'Plus' users is sitewide HTTPS (this can provide some SEO benefits) and the ability to list your product in Google Trusted Stores. The sales cap on the 'Pro' plan is $1,000,000.

BIGCOMMERCE ENTERPRISE

Finally, there's Bigcommerce's "Enterprise" plan to consider. This is really geared towards businesses that have very high volumes of sales (over $1,000,000), and advanced requirements. Its advanced features - that are not available on the cheaper plans - include:

dedicated SSL and IP address

uptime service level agreement (SLA)

Bigcommerce consulting

priority support.

If you're interested in the Enterprise plan you will need to discuss your requirements with Bigcommerce to establish pricing - the costs will reflect your business needs. You can generally expect a lot more support from Bigcommerce if you purchase an Enterprise plan - data migration, setup, account management and much more in-depth support can all be facilitated.

TRANSACTION FEES AND SALES LIMITS

First the really good news: there aren't any transaction fees. You will, of course, pay credit card transaction fees and these will depend on the payment gateway you use (see below), but unlike some if its competitors you don't have to worry about Bigcommerce taking a cut of your sales.

The bad news, and as discussed above, is that Bigcommerce places a limit on your annual online sales:

Bigcommerce Standard: $50,000

Bigcommerce Plus: $125,000

Bigcommerce Pro: $1,000,000

Bigcommerce Enterprise: negotiable

I contacted Bigcommerce to see what happens if you breach these limits and the response was:

"There is an additional 1,000-2,000 order limit per plan that users be able to go over before being forced to upgrade. During this time users will receive notifications about upgrading their plan as they are over the limit. But we will not prevent additional orders from coming through until they exceed the additional 1,000-2,000 overage order provided."

I expect the limits issue won't be a showstopper for all merchants, but they do need to be born in mind if you expect your store to generate the kind of sales figures outlined above. I have yet to come across these sorts of limits on competing products like Shopify or Volusion, so it's a bit of a 'could do better' here for Bigcommerce.

PAYMENT GATEWAYS

Payment gateways in Bigcommerce

Payment gateways in Bigcommerce

With all the plans referred to above it is worth pointing out that additional charges apply for use of a ‘payment gateway’ (software provided by a third party to process credit cards) – depending on what you plump for you are looking at a percentage of a transaction fee, or a monthly fee (or both).

Setting up a payment gateway can occasionally be bit of a lengthy process, involving setting up 'merchant accounts' with third party providers and configuring them so that they work with your store. If you want to avoid doing this you can use various 'one-click' options provided by Bigcommerce that allow you to use Stripe, Paypal, Simplify (Mastercard) with a minimum of fuss. It's worth looking at the various fees involved with other payment gateway providers though: depending on what you sell and how much of it you sell, a third party payment gateway may still be the best route for you to go down, even if it involves a bit more setup time.

SPECIAL PAYPAL RATES

One potentially useful Bigcommerce feature is special Paypal rates. Bigcommerce have teamed up with Braintree to provide slightly lower Paypal rates - these decrease as you go up Bigcommerce's pricing ladder.

BIGCOMMERCE TEMPLATES

Example of a free Bigcommerce theme

Example of a free Bigcommerce theme

For quite a while Bigcommerce lagged behind competing products by not providing an extensive range of responsive templates. Fortunately, this all changed recently, with Bigcommerce rolling out a large selection of responsive themes. There are 7 free themes and 60 paid themes (ranging in price from $145 to $235) - and each theme contains a number of different variants, so there is a lot to choose from.

The free themes on offer are contemporary, professional in appearance and provide a good starting point for building an online store.

BIGCOMMERCE: MAIN FEATURES

As discussed above the exact features you get with Bigcommerce depend on the plan you opt for, but basic features include:

the ability to sell a wide range of either physical or digital goods, in categories of your choosing and using shipping rates of your choosing

integration with Paypal and a wide range of payment gateways

full content management (CMS) functionality

good search engine optimisation (SEO) options – it’s very easy to add appropriate keywords to your products and site pages

integration with several e-newsletter services: Constant Contact, iContact, Mailchimp and Interspire

integration with Alibaba.com

automated reminder emails to people who abandoned their carts at checkout

discount coupons and gift vouchers as standard

the ability to tweak CSS and HTML as desired.

BIGCOMMERCE’S ABANDONED CART SAVER FEATURE

One feature worth drawing particular attention to is Bigcommerce’s abandoned cart feature – it’s one of the best out there. The tool allows you to create up to three automated emails to site visitors who go part of the way through the sales process only to leave your store without buying anything. This has the potential to dramatically increase your revenue with little effort – other than the 'one-off' time investment in setting up the automated messages – being involved. Other online store building tools provide similar functionality, but Bigcommerce’s is in my view better than those offered by its key competitors because it is more flexible and allows you to program in more reminder emails.

It’s important to note that the abandoned cart saver functionality only comes with Bigcommerce’s 'Plus' and 'Enterprise' plans.

PRODUCT VARIANTS AND CATEGORIES

Another particularly strong feature of Bigcommerce is the way it handles product variants. Unlike rival Shopify, which only allows you to present users with three product variants without resorting to workarounds, Bigcommerce's 'product options' and 'product rules' allow you to create a seemingly endless number of product configurations. So if you are selling products that come in a lot of different formats, Bigcommerce may be a particularly good option.

Less impressive is the way that Bigcommerce handles categories - whilst creating and editing them is straightforward enough, you have to assign them to individual products in quite a manual fashion. It would be better - as is the case with some other leading online store builders - if you could automatically categorise products based on product name or tags.

USING BIGCOMMERCE WITH ALIBABA

Bigcommerce has a partnership with Alibaba.com, the Chinese giant online retailer. This allows Bigcommerce users to browse and buy 30,000 wholesale products from 300 of Alibaba's 'gold' suppliers (ones that have been vetted, basically) from within the Bigcommerce interface. This may prove useful to certain users who are stuck for stock ideas, but note that the shipping of the products will still be the responsibility of the Bigcommerce store owner - i.e., this isn't a drop shipping style arrangement, where you sell something from Alibaba on your site and have somebody else ship it to your customers (which would be pretty cool, thinking about it, providing the retailer shipping your product was reliable). See the accompanying video for more information about this partnership.

INTERFACE

Bigcommerce’s interface is straightforward and intuitive; similar in quality (not to mention appearance!) to Shopify's and way ahead of Volusion's. One thing I particularly like about it is that it is very easy to create a navigation menu with Bigcommerce; this is not always the case with Shopify (if you require more than one level of navigation in Shopify, you will need to use occasionally baffling 'link handles') and definitely not the case at all with Volusion.

MOBILE APPS

One area where Bigcommerce doesn't score highly is mobile apps. Unlike some other e-commerce solutions, no iOS or Android apps are available for store owners to use to manage their stores on the go. There was previously an app available...but it's been discontinued.

BIGCOMMERCE SUPPORT

Bigcommerce provides 24-hour 'live agent' support. It's not hugely clear on their site what exactly this covers - phone, chat or email, and before you get access to relevant contact details you have to try to resolve the issue by searching their help pages first. This will annoy some users quite a lot, I suspect.

For those who are more inclined towards trying to sort the issue out themselves first, there is a large range of video and text resources available from Bigcommerce, and a community forum.

BIGCOMMERCE REVIEW CONCLUSIONS

Bigcommerce is one of the strongest all-round online store builders I’ve tested. Above all else, it is very easy to use – it’s one of the more user friendly store builders I’ve come across to date, with some excellent marketing functionality (not least its abandoned cart saver tool). The main down sides involve price (the entry level plan is more expensive than those offered by some competing products) and the imposition of sales limits on store owners.

I hope this Bigcommerce review has helped give you a sense of this product and whether it's suitable for your needs - but as usual, always best to try before you buy: you can avail of a free Bigcommerce trial here.

Finally, below you will find my summary of the positive and negative aspects of Bigcommerce.

PROS OF USING BIGCOMMERCE

Bigcommerce is one of the easiest-to-use online store builder I’ve come across to date, with a very intuitive interface / CMS. My favourite aspect of the whole product is this user-friendliness – many users of online store builders are small business owners, not web developers, and interfaces should not get in the way of building the store.

There are no transaction fees.

Its marketing features are very strong: it’s really easy to use several leading e-newsletter services with Bigcommerce, and the tool’s approach to SEO is very straightforward too.

The automated emails that are sent to visitors who abandon their carts are an excellent idea and likely to boost revenue from your store considerably. Their 'abandoned cart saver' tools are more comprehensive than similar offerings by competitors (including Shopify and Volusion).

It comes with a wide range of discounting / coupon tools out of the box.

It comes with a built-in blog. This is extremely important because it allows you to use inbound marketing techniques directly from your store, without having to make use of a third party tool like Wordpress (or set up a subdomain for your blog etc.).

Cheaper Paypal transaction fees.

Very flexible solution for vendors with a lot of different product variants.

CONS OF USING BIGCOMMERCE

Limits are placed on annual online sales - and if you exceed them, you'll need to upgrade to a more expensive monthly plan.

The price of the Bigcommerce starter plan is on the high side by comparison to other solutions, although the plan itself is much more functional than entry-level products by other leading e-commerce solution providers.

No mobile apps to manage your store on the go.

Because Bigcommerce is a hosted solution, if it shuts down or changes its feature set radically, you might find yourself in a position where you needed to migrate your store to another platform (Magento Go users can tell you all about that!). But unless you are able to code your own online store (an expensive and laborious undertaking) you are probably going to end up using a third party tool like Bigcommerce anyway to run your store, and at least it's one of the more established products out there.

Although support is 24/7, it's not clear quite what level of support you receive with Bigcommerce across indiviudal channels (phone, chat or email).

Have you used Bigcommerce? Let us know your thoughts on the solution below!
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BlogTalkRadio
There is a wonderful social network called BlogTalkRadio. Basically, you can record your own radio talkshow with just a phone and a computer. The service records your talk show through the phone with a number of guests/listeners (max 5) and that show is then automatically published on BlogTalk Radio. Yet, you can also publish the talkshow on your own blog/site.

Heather Picken, Personal Power Coach For Women, discovered this great free service and she was so nice to tell me about it. Heather was very happy with the result, she told me: We have done 3 shows over there and have gotten well over 1000 downloads of the calls and over 100 callers on the show!!!

You basically do your show, and it automatically saves it as an mp3

Heather is not easily excited about things, and she hates complicated stuff,so you can count on it: here you have a free audio service that at the same time is a radio channel and a social network and it is dead-easy to operate. Here is an excerpt of what BlogtalkRadio has to say about its own service:

BlogTalkRadio is the social radio network that allows users to connect quickly and directly with their audience. Using an ordinary telephone and computer hosts can create free, live, call-in talk shows with unlimited participants that are automatically archived and made available as podcasts. No software download is required. Listeners can subscribe to shows via RSS into iTunes and other feed readers. Our network has produced tens of thousands of episodes since it launched in August of 2006.

You can actually compare this with setting up your own video channel on youtube with the difference that the emphasis is on audio and it has of course a couple of other interesting features that you would not find on video channels, like the points you find in bold below:

Free Internet radio talk show: No software download. Free.

Shared Revenue Program. Optional Revenue Sharing program for participating hosts

Live Chat: Lets hosts chat with listeners during and after live show

Multiple participants: Receive up to 5 simultaneous guests/listeners on your show

Promotional Tools: Copy and paste flash player and buttons to any blog or web site

Show Archive: Saved automatically and available as MP3, RSS subscription or iTunes

Reminders: Customized alerts by email or phone of upcoming shows

Friends and Favorites; Collect listeners and add your favorite shows

Customizable Profile: Add video, a blog, links to other sites or other widgets

There are advanced options for business users as well. I suggest you read this page for an overview of all possible features. I would definitely want you to have a look at this service if you are serious about podcasting. It is a very popular site, so there is a large audience just waiting for your own talkshow. In short, if talking is your thing, have a look at BlogtalkRadio!
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Booking.com France/Belgium
Booking.com (part of Priceline (NASDAQ: PCLN) is the world’s leading online hotel & accommodation reservation company. People can access the platform anytime, anywhere from their desktop, mobile phone or tablet device. The website is available in 41 languages, offers over 300,000 hotels in 180 countries and attracts visitors from both leisure and business markets around the globe. With over 15 years of experience and a team of over 5,500 dedicated employees in more than 100 offices worldwide, Booking.com operates its own in-house customer service team available 24/7.

Booking.com has consistently offered reasonable deals and fares on their website and their customer service has always been satisfactory. The nice touch about this website is that the majority of bookings don't require up- front payment, and most bookings Yve free cancellation policies.
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Booking.com Netherlands
One of the best in customer satisfaction

According to an independent study by J.D. Power and Associates in 2012, Booking.com scored the best in terms of overall customer satisfaction. They received above-average ratings in all categories — the only company in the study to do so — and customers particularly appreciated Booking.com’s clean website layout and intuitive booking process. The wide variety of travel accommodations available and the detailed information about each property also left a good impression on those who visited the website. These may seem like relatively insignificant details, but they make a big difference in your overall experience.

Deals on all types of accommodations

In addition to hotels, Booking.com offers deals on a number of other places to stay, including resorts, vacation rentals, and hostels. Some of these lodging options can be found on a few other travel sites, but certain types of accommodations like bed and breakfasts and homestays are a little harder to come by on most major travel booking websites. If you’re interested in one of these alternative travel accommodations, definitely explore what Booking.com has to offer because you won’t be able to find a selection like this elsewhere.

Thematic search functionality

Booking.com enables you to search for travel accommodations by theme, some of which are based on locations or amenities like beach and spa hotels, while others are tailored to specific groups of travelers like family and business hotels. If you fit into one of these categories, this is a good place to start your search. Additional search criteria, including specific dates and hotel ratings, can be added to speed up the process of finding the perfect place to stay.

Account available on any device

Your Booking.com account is accessible from your computer, tablet, and smartphone, which facilitates the booking process considerably. For example, say you’re in the middle of looking at hotels online when you have to run out the door. Sign in to your account on your mobile app and click on recent searches. Since everything is synced, you can quickly return to what you were looking at without having to re-enter your search criteria. Credit card information is also stored across all devices so you can make a reservation quickly.

Powerful mobile capabilities

Booking.com’s app has garnered some of the highest reviews of any mobile app in the industry, earning over a 4.5 out of 5 stars from customers. Available on Android, Apple, and Windows phones, the app gives you access to all of the same search tools found on the company’s website. If you’re looking for a last-minute hotel, Booking.com’s mobile app shows you what’s available in your area with just a few clicks. Once you’ve made your reservation, the app even provides a map from where you are to the location using the GPS in your phone. Signing into your account from the app makes the booking process move even faster and all of your searches and payment information are automatically synced with your phone for future use.

Secret deals for members

Booking.com’s newsletters contain Secret Deals, which are half-price hotels and other travel accommodations available for a short time. These emails can be customized by selecting your favorite travel destinations. Booking.com keeps an eye out for any deals that apply and alerts you right away, so you can finally book that dream vacation at a price that fits within your budget. These newsletters are free to subscribe to and you can unsubscribe at any time, but they’re definitely worth a look if you want insider information on the best hotel deals available.
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Booking.com Italy
One of the best in customer satisfaction

According to an independent study by J.D. Power and Associates in 2012, Booking.com scored the best in terms of overall customer satisfaction. They received above-average ratings in all categories — the only company in the study to do so — and customers particularly appreciated Booking.com’s clean website layout and intuitive booking process. The wide variety of travel accommodations available and the detailed information about each property also left a good impression on those who visited the website. These may seem like relatively insignificant details, but they make a big difference in your overall experience.

Deals on all types of accommodations

In addition to hotels, Booking.com offers deals on a number of other places to stay, including resorts, vacation rentals, and hostels. Some of these lodging options can be found on a few other travel sites, but certain types of accommodations like bed and breakfasts and homestays are a little harder to come by on most major travel booking websites. If you’re interested in one of these alternative travel accommodations, definitely explore what Booking.com has to offer because you won’t be able to find a selection like this elsewhere.

Thematic search functionality

Booking.com enables you to search for travel accommodations by theme, some of which are based on locations or amenities like beach and spa hotels, while others are tailored to specific groups of travelers like family and business hotels. If you fit into one of these categories, this is a good place to start your search. Additional search criteria, including specific dates and hotel ratings, can be added to speed up the process of finding the perfect place to stay.

Account available on any device

Your Booking.com account is accessible from your computer, tablet, and smartphone, which facilitates the booking process considerably. For example, say you’re in the middle of looking at hotels online when you have to run out the door. Sign in to your account on your mobile app and click on recent searches. Since everything is synced, you can quickly return to what you were looking at without having to re-enter your search criteria. Credit card information is also stored across all devices so you can make a reservation quickly.

Powerful mobile capabilities

Booking.com’s app has garnered some of the highest reviews of any mobile app in the industry, earning over a 4.5 out of 5 stars from customers. Available on Android, Apple, and Windows phones, the app gives you access to all of the same search tools found on the company’s website. If you’re looking for a last-minute hotel, Booking.com’s mobile app shows you what’s available in your area with just a few clicks. Once you’ve made your reservation, the app even provides a map from where you are to the location using the GPS in your phone. Signing into your account from the app makes the booking process move even faster and all of your searches and payment information are automatically synced with your phone for future use.

Secret deals for members

Booking.com’s newsletters contain Secret Deals, which are half-price hotels and other travel accommodations available for a short time. These emails can be customized by selecting your favorite travel destinations. Booking.com keeps an eye out for any deals that apply and alerts you right away, so you can finally book that dream vacation at a price that fits within your budget. These newsletters are free to subscribe to and you can unsubscribe at any time, but they’re definitely worth a look if you want insider information on the best hotel deals available.
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Beyond Hosting
Beyond Hosting

Beyond Hosting specializes in managed Linux or Windows VPS and dedicated cloud hosting for businesses. They also provide domain registrations and SSL certificates. Founded in 2007, they’re a small company based in Cincinnati, Ohio who provide 24/7 customer support based in the United States.

Managed VPS Hosting

Beyond Hosting offers both Linux and Windows VPS hosting that includes full root access to the server, using cPanel and WHM. There are three different levels of Linux hosting and four levels of Windows hosting to choose from, and you can instantly upgrade if you need more resources, or downgrade for less.

All of Beyond Hosting’s VPS plans include solid state drive (SSD) storage, dedicated and burstable RAM, unlimited domain support, and daily automatic backups. Softaculous is included to enable one-click installations of over 300 of the most common software applications.

For some plans, Beyond Hosting offers LiteSpeed Web Server instead of Apache. LiteSpeed Web Server is faster than Apache, with improved PHP performance.

Beyond Hosting’s Windows VPS plans are used via remote desktop, so they’re easy to use if you’re familiar with Windows. All the Windows plans include Windows Web Server 2008, and you can purchase SQL Server for an additional fee.

Managed Dedicated Cloud Hosting

Beyond Hosting offers five different levels of managed dedicated cloud hosting depending on your website’s needs. All of them include SSD storage, and cPanel.

All their dedicated cloud servers are monitored 24/7, and include daily snapshot backups.

Optional premium features include LiteSpeed Web Server (instead of Apache web server) and automated off-site FTP backups.

Infrastructure & Network

Beyond Hosting’s data centers use Dell’s Poweredge rack servers. Their transit network is fully redundant and connected to multiple Tier 1 carriers. Beyond Hosting’s VPS host nodes have redundant 10gbps uplinks, and their servers are equipped with 5 industrial generators in case of power failure.

CloudFlare CDN (content delivery network) is also included with all of Beyond Hosting’s plans to protect your website from downtime. A content delivery network distributes static content among multiple servers around the world to speed up your website loading times. On average, websites with CloudFlare load twice as fast.

Support and Customer Service

Beyond Hosting has a knowledgebase on their website that will help you get started with your web hosting account and resolve most basic issues.

They provide customer support via a ticket system or live chat, and their United States-based team is available 24/7.

Backups & Security

Beyond Hosting offers offsite FTP backup services for an additional monthly fee, which they recommend all VPS and dedicated customers sign up for. The service includes hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly backups which are stored off-site, so they aren’t compromised if anything should happen to your server or the data center it’s in.

Beyond Hosting’s Beacon Monitoring Service is included free with all of their hosting plans, and are automatically configured when your new account is set up. The service monitors your server 24/7 for uptime, and can send you instant email or SMS alerts if your server is down.

Uptime Guarantee

Beyond Hosting doesn’t have a specific uptime guarantee; however, in their terms of service they offer to credit their customers 4 cents per hour for any time their servers aren’t functional. In their company blog, they specify an over 99.5% uptime record.

Billing & Payment Policies

Beyond Hosting charges monthly for all its plans and services. For payment methods, they accept credit cards or Paypal. Discounts are available for selected plans for the first 6 months of service.

All of Beyond Hosting’s services are non-refundable. Your account will be automatically renewed unless you cancel via support ticket at least five days before your current term is ending.

Beyond Hosting charges overage fees for use of services outside your allocated limits, though they don’t state what the overage rates are on their website.
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BOOKSAMILLION.COM
Product Selection

When it comes to buying products, Books-A-Million has just as good of a selection as Borders or Barnes & Noble. Their bookstore features new books, used books, textbooks, collectable books, movies, DVDs, music and toys.

The one aspect the store does not offer is the ability to sell your own books. Most of their leading competitors offer this service and it makes sense to let users sell their used books on the site. After all, doing so can help increase their product availability, let them offer unbeatable deals on used books, and they can always make money through commissions from the used books sold.

Website

The site itself is clean, easy to use and attractive. The homepage helps highlight best sellers, sales and the store’s free shipping deal. The basic search on the site’s homepage also serves as its advanced search by allowing users to choose from a drop-down menu where they can choose to search by author, title and ISBN. Browsing by category, then subcategory, is easy from the homepage, but the store could easily improve by allowing users to also browse from the book section of the site. Sale books, labeled “bargain books,” are available from the home page.

Once you’re on a book’s page, it is easy to buy the book new, add it to your wish list, and view your options for used book purchases. The book page offers a quick description of the book, but it is somewhat limited. Customer reviews are also available, but there are no expert opinions, which can always be a nice feature.

If you prefer to buy your books in person, an easy to use store locator is available on every page as well.

Shipping

Order over $25 of merchandise and you qualify for free shipping. This offer does not apply to used books and the free shipping method can be even slower than ground shipping, meaning it is not as great as the top three online bookstores. Even so, free is free.

When it comes to paid shipping, Books-A-Million offers a great selection of options, including standard ground, overnight and two day shipping. Gift wrapping your items is an additional $2 per item, but a gift receipt with a personalized message is free.

Payment Options

Coupons, gift certificates and membership cards can all be used to reduce the cost of your online order. Most major credit cards are accepted, but JCB and Diner’s Club are not. Shoppers can also pay via PayPal.

Customer Support

The online bookstore offers an array of support options, including help at their physical store, phone operators, email queries, FAQs and more.
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BIGDOGS.com
In the three years I've been reviewing books for Training, Speaking to the Big Dogs is the best material I've had the opportunity to review. This program is for anyone—managers, trainers, techies, sales personnel, vendors—who present material to senior executives.

The host, Rick Gilbert, President of Frederick Gilbert Associates, interviews 17 top-level executives, so you can hear from the horse's mouth about the do's and don'ts of making presentations to executives. The focus is primarily on formal boardroom presentations.

The program is in DVD format and includes a very brief hard copy program overview in the jewel case. I'm a nut for books, but DVD is definitely the media for this work. Watching the executives speak, listening to their tone of voice, and watching their body language as they impart their wisdom—well, it was much more powerful than it would have been in a book.

The DVD is divided into five parts: Preparation, The People, The Presentation, The Process, and The Human Connection. Each part contains pieces of the 17 interviews. The executives talk about everything from doing your homework to how to handle the situation when a CEO must leave during your presentation. They don't always agree on every point, but there were three top take-aways on which they were unanimous.

1. First line, bottom line. Start with the conclusion, then substantiate with details.

2. Plan for interaction because they will ask questions. Don't plan to sail right through your presentation as if it were a one-way communication. If you have 30 minutes, present for 10 minutes and allow 20 minutes for questions and discussion.

3. Don't read from your slides. And as one executive put it, "Don't put 4,000 words on a slide."

There's much to learn from this program— way too much to do it justice in a short review.

Things that would have made this DVD even better (and for a $239 price tag, we could reasonably expect):

1. It would have been nice if they had included a thumbnail photograph of each executive in the hard copy. Screen titles for the executives were only provided in the first part of the program, which made it difficult to remember who was who.

2. I could find no information on the jewel case, the hard copy info, or the disc, that told me before I began how long the DVD is. That's a big miss for a program on executive presentations. (It's about 2 hours.) —J.L.
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