The rise of the big online retailers looked like lights out for independent bookstores. After all, how could your local bookseller compete with their low prices and endless inventory?
As it turns out, book lovers are looking for an experience from their independent bookstore that’s anything but cheap. Indies are winning trust and loyalty from their customers by providing some things money can’t buy: quality, uniqueness, and service.
Diversification is Key
A few long-standing independent bookstores in Utah found success during this tough time for the industry by diversifying their product offerings in response to their customers’ evolving needs.
Kaysville Bookstore, for example, carries new and used books and videos. It also partnered with a local charter school’s language arts program to sell certain books to the students’ families at a discount. And it has expanded its online presence, both to place special orders for customers and to present its inventory for Internet sales.
Wisebird Bookery found space for a local coffee shop inside its store, a move that has increased its foot traffic and book sales. They also offer free gift wrap, and have connected with local school districts and the Buy Local First organization to increase their connection with the community.
Don’t Forget That Personal Touch
Online shopping can be a convenient option, but you have to know what you want and how to find it. Even when you surmount those obstacles, you have to trust your source.
A few shops in Massachusetts are proof that communities value independent bookstores and are willing to support in exchange for that personal touch and service. Boswell’s in Shelburne Falls is such a community fixture that a local retired couple bought it rather than see it close.
Broadside Bookshop in Northampton and Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley have created loyalty programs that provide a $10 coupon for every $100 spent. Staff recommendations, special events, and partnerships with local colleges also increase community engagement and loyalty.
Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., has heeded the call to cater to the local community by literally bringing the books to the customers. They added a bookmobile to their operation, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Try New Technology & Tactics
Some independent bookstores are looking to new technology to help cater to local book lovers. The recently revamped Manhattan bookseller Shakespeare & Co. added a paperback printing machine to make sure their customers leave with exactly what they are looking for with no waiting. Customers are happy, the bookstore can operate with a leaner inventory, and sales are up 10%.
Foyles Bookshop in Birmingham, England, has equipped staffers with tablet computers to help customers place orders in-store for the shop’s online inventory. They also help customers check out on the spot allowing them to bypass the checkout line.
Ingram Loves Indies
Ingram offers the resources independent bookstores need to diversify product offerings and improve technology. Find out how to capture every opportunity that comes your way here!