Recorded Books: Enhance CX

Improving the CX of a global audiobook retailer to deliver a 433% increase in sales.

Services: Technology & Web Development | UX & Web Design

Sector: Publishing

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Now #1 in the market

Improving the CX for the world’s largest independent wholesale audiobook retailer took a truly global approach, engaging stakeholders in the US and Australia. Meeting their real world needs was central to the website rebuild.

Gaining deep understanding paid dividends. As well as a huge increase in sales, we delivered a 10% increase in page views, 99% increase in session duration and 63% more pages viewed per session.

Putting the customer first – and increasing sales by 433%

Now firmly established as the largest independent wholesale audiobook retailer in the world, this wasn’t always the case for American B2B merchant Recorded Books Inc.

Delivering audiobooks, eBooks, eMagazines, movies, learning programmes and more into libraries, military bases, private libraries and renowned B2C retailers such as Audible and, Recorded Books grew on the back of evolving technology. This was the time of rapid transformation from the decline of physical books and CDs, to the rise of MP3s and streaming.

Growing the online business

Being a progressive business, Recorded Books was looking to grow its online presence, but didn’t know how. It knew it needed to do something, seeing how it was losing ground to competitors, but wasn’t sure exactly what was needed.

And so, in 2013, Recorded Books turned to Distinction to improve its customers’ digital experience. Knowledge of what its audiences were looking for was critical. So we started by conducting research and discovery over a three month period. It sounds a lot, but this time was needed to interrogate a worldwide customer base.

Digging deeper to reveal the real need

We ran 25 face-to-face workshops in the US, travelling around to meet different customer types, shadowing them to see first-hand how they interacted with the Recorded Books website. We performed the same deep dig in the UK, and ran online workshops with customers in Australia, another major customer base, overcoming time difference challenges with 4.00am meetings.

Slowly, steadily, we learnt what customers wanted from the site. Broadly, this was simplicity, with customers expecting an easy-to-use, slick and robust website.

This project was very challenging and incredibly rewarding. Distinction worked with us as partners throughout, leading our global team to deliver an exceptional product. Each of the new ecommerce sites have increased sales considerably.

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Customers expected an easy-to-use, slick and robust website

Embracing the complexities

A great example of our outside-in approach – where the needs of the customer are put ahead of every other consideration – the process revealed the size of the task in hand. Moving Recorded Books from where they were to where they needed to be was clearly a massive task.

Accommodating the complexity of the audiobook retailing world that Recorded Books operates in was the first challenge. Audiobooks can be bought as one-off, as a subscription rental, in bundles, with discounts and loads of other variables. In the US, state-specific tax laws further complicated matters. We knew we had to accommodate all such complexities.

Selecting the right technology

Another challenge was tyranny of choice on technology. Selecting the right ecommerce, CRM and EMS MarTech stack means tough decisions had to made in selecting the best from the massive range of options available. Integrating at least five internal systems into one also took time and effort, as did engaging the myriad of third parties involved in its global operations.

And so the project grew. The budget was exceeded, the timeline stretched. But there was good news. Armed with our customer-centred view of what was required, the Recorded Books leadership team embraced our hard-won findings (despite their negative opinions of the current website) and revealed its strength in trusting Distinction to deliver.

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The new digital interface of Recorded Books Inc

Improving the digital experience

Our action was to accommodate global differences in pricing, tax rules and royalties by building three websites – for the US, Australasia, and the UK and Europe. Each featured upgraded functionality including:

  • Recently viewed titles – so users can quickly navigate back
  • Recommendations section – new releases, bestsellers and upcoming releases
  • Title detail pages –images, authors, synopses, audio previews
  • Creating an account – simple, quick and easy

Delivering a huge increase in sales

By bringing the voice of the customer to the leadership table, we gave Recorded Books a new ground zero, a focal point from which every subsequent choice and decision was made. And for Recorded Books, a new and universal truth has been established: answer what the customer tells you they are looking for, and you can’t go far wrong.


The figures speak for themselves. In Australia, the full annual sales target was completed in the first three months of the new website going live. Achieving an astonishing 433% global increase in sales, Recorded Books is now number one in its market, operating from such a position of strength that it was able to acquire its closest competitor, further consolidating its status as the undisputed world leader.

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