One thing that independent booksellers should learn from the chain stores is that a customer wants a comfortable place to kill time almost as much as they want a selection of reading material. Of course not every independent can accommodate a café and comfy chairs–and we don’t want to encourage B+N-style abuse with people sleeping in the corners and mauling our stock. What we want is an atmosphere that’s unique and welcoming and attracts customers, even when they don’t have a particular purchase in mind.
Here are a few things that have drawn me to–and held me in–particular stores:
- readings and book groups
- a newsletter (e or print)
- zines or a local authors section
- original art on the walls
- a specialization or a few well-developed sections
- a community bulletin board
- staff hi-lights/picks
- good music
- organized/accessible shelving
- a new arrivals section (for used books)
- a discount punch card or a frequent shopper club
- special orders / OP book searches
- volunteering for store credit
Because my own store is strictly online I have a more intangible tool set but my goal is still to get people to goof off in my shop (even if they’re sitting in a cubicle on a Monday afternoon). Pursuant to this I’ve added a blog , Flickr sets and I’m planning experiments with LibraryThing, YouTube, and podcasting. So far all of these elements use free third-party webware. The benefit of this is two-fold: a) I don’t have to sink cash into a site redesign b) I’m spreading my footprint over several sites that are very actively search indexed AND have a social networking component.
So how many of these things do you do? What else have you tried to hold your customers attention and keep them coming back?
editor’s note: William is exactly right, especially in regards to music, we get comments on ours all the time. The pic above is from our shop so I obviously buy into Williams ideas on this topic.