Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
You gotta love some of the ways Amazon’s first bricks-and-mortar bookstore functions:
–All titles are face out. *love*
–The store doesn’t attempt to overwhelm you with choices. The stock is curated via Amazon online and Goodreads so only the books of greatest interest to the greatest number of readers are found there–or books with consistent 5-star ratings, even if their rank on Amazon isn’t high. If you want to buy something a bit more esoteric, you can shop online. *love*
What can publishers and bookstores learn from Amazon’s bookstore and other retailers who are creating a marriage–not of convenience but of love–between their brick-and-mortar stores and their online presence?
- Move away from being product-focused to being consumer-focused. Traditional retail=anonymous buying and selling. Studies show that each American lives an average of 20 miles from the closest WalMart. Yet WalMart has no idea what you bought last time you shopped there. Meanwhile, Amazon knows the title of the first book you bought on Amazon. Because of the vast data Amazon holds from everyone who’s ever purchased anything from them, it can curate the titles being offered in its store. The inventory in the Seattle store was selected not only based on best-sellers but also on the books Seattle readers are likely to enjoy. The idea for publishers would be not to think about what book they want to publish but what book does the reader of sci-fi or the cookbook buyer want. Publishers have few avenues to figure this out.
- Stop viewing online shopping as a secondary sales option. Publishers are just beginning to open up online shopping on their websites, having in the past believed that doing so would divert buyers from physical stores. While hard-core readers still love to roam a bookstore’s aisles, books are among the most frequently purchased items online. What publishers need to figure out is how to incentivize book buyers to shop at individual publishers’ websites rather than just heading over to the big Amazon online “warehouse” of books. And also how to fairly compensate authors for purchases made on a publisher’s website. It isn’t the authors’ job to pay for the development of online shopping. That’s delivery-of-product expenses the publisher needs to invest in.
- Make the bookstore a showroom, not a warehouse. When we shop online, we’re looking for a big selection; when we shop in a physical store, we shop in a more targeted way. We might well have already searched around online to figure out what we think we want. In a physical store, we’re looking for confirmation. At a store, we can handle the merchandise, try it on, or try it out. Virtual shopping is a different dynamic from touching a book, flipping through the pages, reading a snippet we’ve selected, studying the photo insert …or spying the book nestled next to it is actually of more interest.
- Achieve one of the goals that Amazon probably had in mind in setting up the store: appeal to Millennials and teens, who tend to want to read physical books. Forbes published an article that explored Millennials’ reading habits. “Millennials preferred to buy books in a brick-and-mortar store as opposed to e-commerce sites like Amazon. 52% of the surveyed U.S. millennials said that they ‘normally acquired’ books from large chain stores.” The study went on to say that 28% of Millennials discover and purchase books by browsing the displays in bookstores. Since 45% of Millennials discover books through word-of-mouth referrals, why not offer book discussions with authors in physical bookstores rather than book readings or signings? (That’s a suggestion the writer of the Forbes article made.) In actuality, word-of-mouth is the most effective way to sell books to most readers from middle grade up, and starting that word-of-mouth through interaction with the author in real time seems like a great way to do it..
- Offering a pickup or subscription service. If you order a book from Amazon, you could pick it up at the Seattle store, if you lived nearby, of course. But this type of service is of real interest, especially to Millennials. They aren’t caught up in acquiring more things so much as they are in accessing it–a ride, a place to stay, regular reading material, a stylish sweater to wear. A physical store where a Millennial can pick up an item selected online adds that personal touch. As this Techcrunch article states, Nordstrom bought a subscription clothing company, Trunk Club, that appealed to Millennials. Nordstrom would provide subscribers the chance to try items on in a store, and Nordstrom salespeople could help in making selections–and entice a younger generation to shop Nordstrom. Target, with 5,000 stores nationwide, could readily serve as a pickup waystation for regularly purchased items, especially via subscription. (Anyone ready to subscribe to have weekly grocery items–and a book?–packaged up for you when you walk into your nearby Target?) Subscription services are a natural for books. That’s what mail order book clubs used to be all about. Now books can be delivered digitally, too.
Considering the innovations that are being tried to reach consumers, such as Amazon as it occupies a space it hasn’t been in before, is instructive to all of us–publishers, bookstores, consumers of books, and writers, who hope one day to see their books on Amazon Books’ shelves…face out.
Why do you think Amazon opened a bricks-and-mortar store? Which of the ways an online-physical store combo could function appeal to you?
What does Amazon’s physical store teach us about ways increase book sales? Click to tweet.
As retailers innovate to reach consumers, what can the publishing industry learn? Click to tweet.