My local bookstores don’t seem to have changed much in the last 10 years. I don’t see the stores adapting that well to the ever-changing market. Sure, Amazon and the other online retailers were destined to steal some portion of the industry’s sales, but have the brick and mortar stores lost more share than they need to? If I could influence the bookstore decision-makers, here are three things I’d recommend they consider:
Free WiFi – If it makes sense to encourage customers to spend time in the store with comfy chairs and caramel lattes, why not offer free WiFi? I don't have a T-mobile account and I don't plan to get one. If Panera Bread can do it, why can't Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.?
In-store web kiosks – For those customers without WiFi laptops, why not offer systems in the store to browse online, research, etc.? Is it a cost issue? How about featuring sponsors? Publishers would likely be interested in subsidizing this as a promotional vehicle. I'll bet they could get other sponsors as well, for example, a hardware company (Dell?), a broadband provider (SBC?), etc. Brick and mortar stores need to figure out how to truly embrace the web. If I'm in a Barnes & Noble store, I'm probably interested in going online to read the customer comments for the book I'm thinking about buying. Those comments might be on amazon.com, bn.com or somewhere else. If I’m the Barnes & Noble bookseller, do I really care where my customer gets input from, as long as they make the purchase in my store?
Online fulfillment – If I’m in a bookstore and the title I want is not in stock, the store has to order the book and I have to return several days later to pick up. Why don't they just put the order through online and deliver it to me for free? I'll probably be paying full price as opposed to 20% or 30% off, so they could absorb the shipping cost. Or, if they want to really play it up as an advantage over Amazon, give me the discount and free shipping!
I think these changes would increase store traffic and produce higher sales. What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions?