Where is your bookstore located?
Is it in the heart of the city or in a distant suburb? Are there lots of kids in your area, maybe schools? Universities in England? What kind of customers do you get? What sells the most in your store, and what are the questions most asked at the counter? Which genre of books sell the most, and do you get more customers in the morning or the afternoon? On weekdays, or weekends? Do you jot down the questions, queries, and criticisms you hear from your customers…? This kind of information – no matter how trivial it may seem – is of utmost importance if you really want to serve your customers well, promote yourself as a bookstore of quality in your area, and in turn, increase your sales. How and why? Because when you observe the daily trends of the customers coming in and out of your store, as well as the community and environment in which your store is located, you can focus your efforts on creating a bookstore that caters better to their needs.

You see, its not just about selling new titles and bestsellers, or about having a great inventory or promotion plan – any bookstore can do that. It’s about having what the particular people in your area want to find.

The simplest example – Students! They’re everywhere and come in all ages. Why not even make a trip to the local schools, ask about their reading lists, and bring in those titles? You could even do the same for local universities, by visiting various departments and providing the texts they need – and in this case, you might think of creating a buy-and-sell-second-hand-books project for students on a low budget.
Think of how grateful they would be for the services you could offer them.

Lets say you did some research and you discovered that you are most frequented by visitors early in the morning. Why not provide coffee? Perhaps your crowd prefers the late afternoon / early evening, after leaving work – why not set up a periodical poetry reading or book-signing session at that time, or even a book-club? Perhaps there is a large expatriate community in your area – why not look into selling some titles in various languages for your bi-lingual customers? What if you’re located in the midst of the city, surrounded by stores, firms, clinics, and general passers-by – what kind of material could you provide to satisfy these varied tastes? First thing’s first –based on your observations, write up a 1-page questionnaire (containing questions about what they would like to see more in your store, and how they think it could improve, your service, how they rate your store on a scale from 1 to 10, your store’s vices and virtues – hearing negative criticism is important too!) and ask your customers if its ok for them to fill it out before they leave. A small ‘your suggestions please’ box close to the counter is another valuable addition. Make it visible and make sure you have a few flash cards there and a pen. Face-to-Face is another sure bet… strike up casual conversation if you can. You’d be surprised at what customers might reveal to you verbally.

You may never know the wants of the community on your own. This is where the importance of research comes in, and these little observations can make you go a long way in catering to the needs of those who visit you. All you really have to do is… simply ask! Chances are, if your customers feel that you treasure their opinion and care for what they want, you’ve won them.

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One thought on “The Importance of Research: Know What Your Customers Want”

  1. First of all, I thank Magda, for the bookstore plan. It helps to have the plan tailored to just what one wants to do which is open a bookstore. I made my first bookstore attempt this past summer in my community and was open for a month. I had written a business plan previously, but had not revised it at this time.

    As I was opening up I made up this very same survey discussed here and passed it around to friends of friends. Some survey takers returned the survey with valuable insights I would not have thought of myself. Also I asked each customer their preferences, not their personal information but what they liked.

    Talking to customers is a valuable experience for any bookshop owner because you greatly expand your book knowledge to those authors and titles that other people know about and like not just what the store owner likes. With books, the potential of unknown gems is far and wide… many many titles to choose from and stock in a general bookstore.

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