ThriftBooks leverages generative AI and LLMs for a 20% boost in holiday sales, bypassing discounts.

In the competitive realm of online bookselling, ThriftBooks stands out with a 20% year-over-year sales increase during the 2023 holiday season, sans any discounting during the crucial Cyber 5 period. Barbara Hagen, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, attributes this success to the innovative use of generative AI.

Ranked No. 319 in the Top 1000 of North America’s largest online retailers, ThriftBooks is prioritizing generative AI and large language models (LLMs) to revamp its customer experience. “Our focus is on utilizing LLMs to connect customers with books they weren’t even aware they were seeking,” Hagen explains.

ThriftBooks employs AI to suggest relevant books to customers. The system learns from purchase patterns, refining recommendations with each transaction. This personalized approach aims to ‘surprise and delight’ users, fostering higher engagement and retention, though specific figures remain undisclosed.

With an expansive catalog of 19 million titles, LLMs are crucial for processing vast amounts of data. These models generate concise summaries from product descriptions, author bios, and reviews, making information more accessible, especially for less known titles.

Since early 2023, ThriftBooks has been using open-source machine learning libraries and experimenting with various LLMs. Plans to expand these initiatives continue into 2024.

The company’s loyalty program, ReadingRewards, features three tiers – Reader, Bookworm, and Literati – encouraging more spending with point-based incentives. Unique to ThriftBooks, members can redeem points for free books, aligning well with AI-generated recommendations for adventurous readers.

Social media presence, particularly on TikTok, has helped ThriftBooks connect with younger consumers. The platform’s ‘Booktok’ community, credited with boosting book sales, offers ThriftBooks significant organic content, minimizing the need for influencer marketing. A notable exception was inviting BookTok influencers to tour a processing center during their 20th anniversary, which garnered high engagement.

ThriftBooks’ strategic use of generative AI and LLMs, combined with effective social media engagement and a unique loyalty program, demonstrates a forward-thinking approach in the online retail landscape, especially in the bookselling sector.