This is the wrap-up post in my recent series of suggestions for how the brick-and-mortar stores could better compete with the online retailers. Parts one through five can be found here, here, here, here and here.
My final suggestion is actually two-in-one: widgets and browser search add-on's. I don't understand why the major brick-and-mortar chains don't have widget programs. See all those covers in the left column of my blog? They're displayed using the LibraryThing widget. Every time I read a book I add it to my LibraryThing collection. The widget randomly displays six titles from my library and includes links to buy the books from...Amazon. Everyone using a widget like this creates yet another storefront for Amazon. Why don't the brick-and-mortar retailers have a widget strategy?
The browser search add-on is a related idea. I use Google's search add-in toolbar for Firefox. It lets me quickly search via Google without having to go to google.com. A quick search tells me that there's an Amazon search add-on for Firefox but the equivalent for Borders and Barnes & Noble simply don't exist. Why is that? Here's a chance to put your website front and center in product search results, accessible directly from a customer's browser. Anyone who wants to add this functionality to their browser is forced to go with Amazon's solution.
Both of these ideas seem like very simple ways to extend the brick-and-mortar brands online with minimal investment costs. These represent nothing more than simply catching up to existing online retailer functionality. There are probably some interesting ways to further extend the capabilities of both widgets and add-on's to leapfrog the e-tailer offerings and make them even more compelling. I'd be happy seeing either of these implemented with just the essentials though as that would be a big step forward.