Saturday, April 9, 2016

How Bookstores Can Reclaim the Online Shopper (AKA Me)

"Support your local bookstore!"

It's a phrase that we hear often. It's a phrase that we like to print on buttons. It's a phrase that bookworms like to pull out and agree upon. 

However, I must confess. I do not do a very good job of supporting my local bookstores. 

I don't buy everything I read, because I love borrowing books from the library (it's free). But when I want to a buy a book, I do one of two things: I buy it online or I look for a used copy. If I don't mind waiting around, then I settle in for the long haul of searching through the thrift stores and second hand bookstores. In most cases, the convenience of Amazon or Book Depository is just too alluring and cost effective for me to deny when I'm buying a book. I'm ashamed to admit that, but it's the truth.

Unfortunately, I'm not the only one who feels this way, and as a result independent bookstores are closing. Even though I admit that I don't support local bookstores as much as I should, it saddens me to think of them closing. So I asked myself what I value about a brick and mortar store that I don't have with my online shopping. Ultimately, I asked myself what it would take to make me a loyal independent bookstore customer. With the risk of sounding like a hopeless consumer, I wanted to share what I came up with:


A "Cool" Shopping Experience
I want my bookstore shopping to be an event for me. Buying a book on Amazon at three in the morning, because I need the next book in the series, is not a shopping event. A huge part of creating this experience is by creating that oh-so-allusive atmosphere. I love it when bookstores have something about them that makes them unique. Maybe they have a unique way of decorating or play really great music. I was just in a bookstore that had a ton of top 100 book lists everywhere and it was really fun to go around reading them. I want my experience in a bookstore to be an enjoyable form escape, not just a utilitarian transaction.

Have Events or Programs
When going to a local bookstore the key element that is not found online is the human element. Obviously there is a human element with the people working in the store, but the best bookstores utilize this element in other ways such as author talks or programs. I love it when a bookstore features as author who will come talk about their work and be available for reader interactions. This is an experience that draws me into the store and is something that I could never have online. Author talks aren't everyone's thing or always attainable, so I love to see bookstores branching out into other creative pursuits. Maybe have a craft night featuring some cool DIY books. As long as it has a human element and engages customers, it's a win in my books (haha, pun intended).

Create Financial Incentives 
I understand that independent bookstores can't compete by offering super cheap books because they have to pay their employees, rent, etc. etc. without the backing of a chain. However, they can create reward programs with smaller, more infrequent discounts. Even if it's just a simple punch card, it's an incentive for me to shop there. I'm the ultimate hoarder of all the points cards and punch cards, so I would definetly be more inclined to go to a bookstore that offers a reward system. Having some sort of reward system also makes me feel like I'm an insider or an exclusive customer, even though anyone can get the rewards. Don't underestimate the power of mental games!

Be Browsable 
Perhaps this is one of the most important elements that draws me into a bookstore. Sometimes I'm just in the mood to shop for books. I don't have a particular book in mind, I just want to look around. In my opinion, a browsable bookstore has front facing books, clear categories, and if possible, tables with books laid out on them.  This feeds into the escapism that I was talking about under the shopping experience heading, but deserves to be mentioned on its own. If a bookstore isn't laid out in a way that makes it easy for me to walk around and look at books, then I probably won't gravitate to it when looking for that bookstore experience.

I'm not a business mogul, but I am a reader and a book buyer and these are the things that attract me to a brick and mortar store. Honestly, I don't know what will save independent bookstores, if anything, but these are the features that I think might help. What attracts you to a bookstore instead of the an online store? Have you visited any great local bookstores? Do you think bookstores are becoming a thing of the past? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments!

Reading: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Listening: Peggy Lee
Watching: Vikings

20 comments:

  1. oh my gosh, these ideas are so cool! One of the local bookstores I went to yesterday had people vote for their favorite of the new YA releases in the past year. It was an interesting way to get everyone involved and such. ^.^

    I also love the idea of the punch card! Dude, that'd be so awesome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so fun! I hope you voted for something awesome!

      Punch cards are amazing, so much love for all my punch cards. Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  2. These ideas are really good! I like the point about the human element and having the experience of buying your books. I love it when there's an author in or a program going on or I just meet an employee who really gets the kind of books I like. Search engines aren't the same as people. Plus I love the whole atmosphere of going into a bookstore.

    Unfortunately, we don't have a bookstore in our town, or the town over. It's killing me, Sunny. It's killing me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! You are so right, search engines aren't the same.

      That is SO SAD that you don't have a bookstore. I can only imagine the pain you must feel! Hope that gets remedied soon!

      Delete
  3. Story time: once upon a time in the Netherlands, a big chain of book stores went bankrupt. People went crazy because they didn't want the stores to disappear. About half of the stores were saved and became independent. The one closest to me is now doing really well, doing almost all of the things you just listed! They're also selling lots of bookish merchandise now and it's just a great place since it's become independent :)

    x Envy
    Lost in Translation

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GREAT STORY! Thanks so much for sharing that! It's nice to hear of independent bookstores doing so well! That sounds like a bookstore I'd like to visit.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  4. Oh, I love all of this! Especially the first one. We used to have a bookstore nearby that really made book browsing and buying an awesome experience. It had a coffee shop, and loads of shelves and tables, and it was quiet and peaceful and no one would bother you if you took an age just drooling over all the books. I wish my local bookstores had events and incentives though, or ever a better range of books sometimes. Most of the ones nearby don't really cater for young adults that much, which I find really sad. They seem to prefer non-fiction, which is great, except if you're me and looking for something to read for entertainment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Coffee shops and bookstores are amazing! They add so much to the atmosphere!

      I have noticed that YA sections can sometimes be severely under-stocked, or worse, mixed in with the children's section. Hope your bookstore improves on that front!

      Delete
  5. Ooh, this is such a good list! I confess I have NEVER bought a book from an independent bookstore. I just can't afford it?!?! I'm looking at paying at least $20 when online I could get it for $12. AGH. Nope. Not happening for me. Plus I only have one TINY bookstore in my town so A) never sees author events, and B) never has new books. When I do go into browse (BOOK SHOPS DO SMELL SO GOOD) I've read like 80% of what's on the shelves already! Gah.
    I will forever be a library girl. XD Although I do think if I had a bookstore nearby that did everything on your list, I'd be tempted to stop by. ;D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am definetly on the same wave-length as you when it comes to not buying expensive books.

      It's so sad that all you have is a tiny bookstore. However, libraries are the best! I'll always been a library girl too:)

      Delete
  6. The rewards system sounds like a great idea! I wish Barnes and Noble would do that. My local bookstore called Foxtale's Bookshoppe has adorable book themed merchandise along with their products and author events. ^ ^

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is such a cute name for a bookstore! I'm really surprised that Barnes and Noble doesn't offer a reward system. Chapters (the Canadian version) offers a points card, so that's strange.

      Maybe one day!

      Delete
  7. Really nice ideas! I used to go to independent shops ALL the time in England. One of my favorites would offer you a cup of tea when you walked through the door. My friend and I would often go to browse and discuss while we sipped our tea. They won my loyalty to the point that if I knew I needed a book that they should have, I would look there before I looked at Amazon. I've had almost no luck since moving back to the States, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, the tea sounds so nice! The kind of loyalty you're talking about it golden. I hope you find something equally worthy in the US.

      Thanks for visiting SOI!

      Delete
  8. I have not shopped at an independent bookstore, or at least I don't remember doing so. I think for me it's a matter of convenience that is difficult to replicate. I don't go running for errands much, so I don't have a lot of use for a physical bookstore, and I tend to want to know that the thing I want is where I want to buy it, which makes the Internet a safer bet. :/ It's sad because I like the idea of maintaining independent bookstores, but I'm not the kind of person who would like using them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally understand that viewpoint, because I share many aspects of it. The internet is easier and more convenient, which makes it hard for brick and mortar store to compete. If you don't value the romantics of shopping independent, then it's a hard sell (literally).

      Thanks for sharing your opinions!

      Delete
  9. I actually want to become an online shopper because the bookstore I go to doesn't have all the books that I want :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sucks! But you have a really valid point. That's why a lot of people shop online. Hope you find what you're looking for!

      Delete
  10. I agree, actually going to a bookstore isn't that common for me, and when I do, I want it to be a nice and special experience. I do go for special events, like if an author I enjoy is doing a signing, but there aren't that many small, independent bookstores in Geneva. Only huge places where they sell everything from textbooks to childrens lit.
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am totally on the same page as you. Independent bookstores can be hard to find, but the big ones can be decent too:)

      Thanks for visiting SOI!

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...