Books and Publishing in the Digital Age
More and more people are visiting their local stores to browse the products that they then choose to purchase somewhere else, usually online, at a lower price. Known as “showrooming” this act has lead to a loss in sales for brick-and-mortar bookstores while increasing the sales of major online retailers such as Amazon. According to TNS market research, one third of the 38,000 people surveyed admitted to visiting bookshops to find a book and later buying the book for a lesser price at a different store. Nearly 60% of North Americans showroom and almost 54% of the people in Europe showroom as well. When physical bookstores are losing sales at an alarming rate, what can be done to hinder the effects of showrooming?
For starters, it has been suggested that bookstores might well decide to charge admission to enter and browse the store’s merchandise. This suggestion came from UK HarperCollins CEO Victoria Barnsley who added that while the idea would not be favorable it was also “not that insane” to think bookstores might need to resort to such measures. In response to Barnsley’s statement, DC Prose & Politics manager Mark Laframboise gave his thoughts on the prospect of bookstore admission fees:
“If it comes to charging admission for customers to browse, we’re done…What we need is some recognition from publishers that people are learning about books at brick-and-mortar bookstores and buying them through a multitude of channels and platforms. Publishers, in recognition of this, should offer increased co-op and increased discounts to stores.”
Showrooming could offer bookstores the opportunity to learn what customers prefer when browsing and buying books. Bookstores can create incentives for customers to use loyalty rewards programs, apps, or email sign-up to help get customers into the stores. Aside from providing discounts and information on upcoming in-store events, the data collected from the customers who use these features help bookstores understand the shopping habits of their customers.
Physical bookstores have the advantage of providing customers with bookseller knowledge and prominent displays that make it easier for customers to discover new titles. A customer can walk into a store, take a bookseller’s recommendation or grab a book of the shelf, and sit for a little while to read passages from the book. An in-store shopping experience is completely different from that of an online retailer. The immediacy and desire to have the book as soon as it’s been perused could become part of bookstores’ strategy to prevent customers from waiting to purchase the book through an online retailer.