Generating Retail Traffic

For the past several months, booksellers have been complaining about slow retail traffic. Publishers have complained, too, of course. But not all retail stores are experiencing this problem. Some are thriving.

Applestore

Last night, I got a taste of this. While on the road, I visited the Apple Store inside the South Coast Mall in Costa Mesa, California. It was about 7:30 p.m. When I entered the mall, it seemed very quiet—almost deserted. Until I got to the Apple Store.

The store was small but packed. I could barely squeeze in. It was almost like an upscale bar. People were jabbering away and laughing. I never seen so much energy in a retail space.

Despite being packed, there were plenty of sales people wandering the floor. When I was ready to “check out,” I tapped one of them on the shoulder. He greeted me and instantly started processing my purchase. The whole transaction took less than two minutes.

As he finished up, I asked him, “Is your store always this crowded?” He answered instantly: “Always.”

I laughed and said, “I hope you are not paying rent. The mall should be paying you. You guys are the ones generating the traffic.”

He replied, “Don’t think we haven’t thought of that!”

Other sales people were actively engaged with customers, answering their questions and pointing them to the various products. They were very knowledgeable and excited about what they were doing. It once again made me wonder what might happen if a bookstore would invest in this kind of staffing and training. Maybe fewer customers would walk out of the bookstore frustrated because they couldn’t find what they came in for or didn’t want to stand in a long line to buy it.

But then, as a publisher, it began to dawn on me. The retail experience was important, but that wasn’t what had drawn these people to the store initially. No, “It’s the product, Stupid.” People come to the Apple store to experience cool products. Take away the products and the traffic dies.

So what would it take to create books that have the “wow factor” that Apple products have? I’m not sure. Certainly, we can improve the content. But we also need to improve the presentation and delivery. So many books are just boring. But do they have to be? I don’t think so.

What if, as publishers, we reinvented the book—just as Apple reinvented the cell phone? Or think of it this way … if Apple had a book publishing division, what would their books look like? How would they deliver their content? I’m not sure, but I don’t think they would be satisfied until they created something that was truly awe-inspiring.

I don’t know if this is possible with books. But until we try, we need to stop complaining about the traffic. Apple has raised the bar, not just for computers, but for all products, including books.

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  • http://www.echomusic.com/ David Huffman

    May we all strive to create awe-inspiring experiences in every element of our lives – the whole not just in professional part. When we tarnish our inspiration and make anger-inspiring ($200.00-like) mistakes, may we be quick to admit, request forgiveness, seek restoration and walk right back to the center of that which we have been called.

  • http://www.echomusic.com David Huffman

    May we all strive to create awe-inspiring experiences in every element of our lives – the whole not just in professional part. When we tarnish our inspiration and make anger-inspiring ($200.00-like) mistakes, may we be quick to admit, request forgiveness, seek restoration and walk right back to the center of that which we have been called.

  • http://blogs.msdn.com/alfredth Alfred Thompson

    I'm a reader. So is my wife. We visit bookstores all the time. Frankly we can usually find books that are exciting enough for us to read but it is often a struggle. Employees are often unhelpful and worst of all unread. I had a B&N sales person ask me why anyone would spend $25 for a discount card at B&N. One would expect someone working at a bookstore to see a discount card as a necessity.
    Contrast that with a student who comes into my wife's middle school library. As the librarian my wife has read large numbers of books aimed at that age group. She will ask about interests, other books they have read and enjoyed, and most often quickly recommend a book for the student. Usually they will like it and be back for more. Sometime like that probably happens at an Apple store a lot. Someone who doesn't know the products will get a recommendation from someone who knows and appreciates the product.

  • http://blogs.msdn.com/alfredth Alfred Thompson

    I’m a reader. So is my wife. We visit bookstores all the time. Frankly we can usually find books that are exciting enough for us to read but it is often a struggle. Employees are often unhelpful and worst of all unread. I had a B&N sales person ask me why anyone would spend $25 for a discount card at B&N. One would expect someone working at a bookstore to see a discount card as a necessity.
    Contrast that with a student who comes into my wife’s middle school library. As the librarian my wife has read large numbers of books aimed at that age group. She will ask about interests, other books they have read and enjoyed, and most often quickly recommend a book for the student. Usually they will like it and be back for more. Sometime like that probably happens at an Apple store a lot. Someone who doesn’t know the products will get a recommendation from someone who knows and appreciates the product.

  • http://www.bryancatherman.com/ Bryan Catherman

    I really enjoyed your post on friction in the bookstore compared to the lack of friction in the Apple store. (I'm a manager of a bookstore and that article hit home.) However, I think Apple's smoke and mirror job might have got to you. I know it had me fooled for a while.

    After your friction article, I had the chance to visit a HUGE Apple store in San Fransisco. The place was packed! But then as I moved from section to section, I realized that many of the people in the store were not investigating products at all. Most were checking their e-mail or playing on MySpace or looking for directions, because all of the demo products were Internet enabled. So then I simply turned to the door to watch people exit. Only about 1 in 12 walked out with an Apple bag or visible product. (Not that my visit over Labor Day weekend was scientific in any way.)

    So it seems to me, that Apple (or at least the SF Bay store on that day) has created the impression that their store is the place to be and their product is HOT! Not that creating that impression is a bad thing.

  • http://www.bryancatherman.com Bryan Catherman

    I really enjoyed your post on friction in the bookstore compared to the lack of friction in the Apple store. (I’m a manager of a bookstore and that article hit home.) However, I think Apple’s smoke and mirror job might have got to you. I know it had me fooled for a while.

    After your friction article, I had the chance to visit a HUGE Apple store in San Fransisco. The place was packed! But then as I moved from section to section, I realized that many of the people in the store were not investigating products at all. Most were checking their e-mail or playing on MySpace or looking for directions, because all of the demo products were Internet enabled. So then I simply turned to the door to watch people exit. Only about 1 in 12 walked out with an Apple bag or visible product. (Not that my visit over Labor Day weekend was scientific in any way.)

    So it seems to me, that Apple (or at least the SF Bay store on that day) has created the impression that their store is the place to be and their product is HOT! Not that creating that impression is a bad thing.

  • Gail Hyatt

    Great Comments Alfred! This is the kind of thinking that will start the change. There's a new day coming for the publishing industry! I can feel it.

  • Gail Hyatt

    Great Comments Alfred! This is the kind of thinking that will start the change. There’s a new day coming for the publishing industry! I can feel it.

  • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/ Lawrence Wilson

    When I was serving as pastor, my model for pulpit communication was not another preacher—it was pop singer Whitney Houston. (I know, that dates me.) I thought the way she used her voice and engaged listeners was incredible.

    Now, as an editorial director for a Christian publisher, I find myself trying to find the next Purpose-Driven or Blue Like Jazz. Maybe our model for product development should be Apple—or Starbucks or Nike—and not each other.

  • http://www.lawrencewilson.com Lawrence Wilson

    When I was serving as pastor, my model for pulpit communication was not another preacher—it was pop singer Whitney Houston. (I know, that dates me.) I thought the way she used her voice and engaged listeners was incredible.

    Now, as an editorial director for a Christian publisher, I find myself trying to find the next Purpose-Driven or Blue Like Jazz. Maybe our model for product development should be Apple—or Starbucks or Nike—and not each other.

  • Karen Grosse

    Great article! I think it is time we all understand there must be a true partnership between publishers and bookstores.
    Bookstores need to be sure they are doing all they can within their stores to create that "wow" factor and provide excellent customer service, but publishers do need to work hand in hand, creating products that will have that awe-inspiring, "must-have" feel (with great content.)
    As a bookstore owner, I'll be looking forward to some of these "reinvented books" from Nelson and other publishers. Sounds like a win/win.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Karen Grosse

    Great article! I think it is time we all understand there must be a true partnership between publishers and bookstores.
    Bookstores need to be sure they are doing all they can within their stores to create that “wow” factor and provide excellent customer service, but publishers do need to work hand in hand, creating products that will have that awe-inspiring, “must-have” feel (with great content.)
    As a bookstore owner, I’ll be looking forward to some of these “reinvented books” from Nelson and other publishers. Sounds like a win/win.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • http://www.relevantblog.blogspot.com/ Mary E. DeMuth

    Larry, I wish I'd heard you preach!

    Michael, I love the question, "If Apple had a book publishing division, what would their books look like?"

    This is the kind of out of the box thinking that will revive the industry. Some of Rob Bell's book formats come to mind.

    I wonder if Apple could invent a book page (on paper) that had instant click through capabilities. Now, that would be cool.

  • http://www.relevantblog.blogspot.com Mary E. DeMuth

    Larry, I wish I’d heard you preach!

    Michael, I love the question, “If Apple had a book publishing division, what would their books look like?”

    This is the kind of out of the box thinking that will revive the industry. Some of Rob Bell’s book formats come to mind.

    I wonder if Apple could invent a book page (on paper) that had instant click through capabilities. Now, that would be cool.

  • John Young

    I spent almost 2 hours walking the floor of a packed B&N in Atlanta Sunday afternoon.It was a perfect day and the football games were on tv making this even more puzzling. On the surface it looked great. But it's replaced the library as the place to sit and read the newer titles, and the Starbucks was packed with students racing to do the homework they put off til Sunday afternoon. It was social and fun but the cash register was slow.
    Mike hit on it:content. We saw the long lines and Harry Potter parties a month ago but people aren't seeing product all that great today. But life itself can't have Harry Potter moments every day, right.
    Part of the problem is we serve a jaded audience who already don't think they have time to read a book but they'll scan a magazine and often not even replace it on the rack. B&N looked like the ladies dressing rooms at Macy's. Everything left behind for a clerk to restock.
    Ask a customer? What are they telling us? I'm guessing much of it is that overwhelming feeling of "where do I start." So many titles.
    And nothing stands out. Sure Bill Clinton and Alan Greeenspan, and the OJ book all got buzz last week but they seem like long magazine articles not a book.

    You want to know what my wife bought this week? A 2 year old Beth Moore book she had missed. A friend at church raved about it. Yeah it's books folks, not music and movies. We are the ones with the slow build not the red carpet treatment. Titles take time and it's us with A D D I often fear. And I'm as guilty as the rest of us.

  • John Young

    I spent almost 2 hours walking the floor of a packed B&N in Atlanta Sunday afternoon.It was a perfect day and the football games were on tv making this even more puzzling. On the surface it looked great. But it’s replaced the library as the place to sit and read the newer titles, and the Starbucks was packed with students racing to do the homework they put off til Sunday afternoon. It was social and fun but the cash register was slow.
    Mike hit on it:content. We saw the long lines and Harry Potter parties a month ago but people aren’t seeing product all that great today. But life itself can’t have Harry Potter moments every day, right.
    Part of the problem is we serve a jaded audience who already don’t think they have time to read a book but they’ll scan a magazine and often not even replace it on the rack. B&N looked like the ladies dressing rooms at Macy’s. Everything left behind for a clerk to restock.
    Ask a customer? What are they telling us? I’m guessing much of it is that overwhelming feeling of “where do I start.” So many titles.
    And nothing stands out. Sure Bill Clinton and Alan Greeenspan, and the OJ book all got buzz last week but they seem like long magazine articles not a book.

    You want to know what my wife bought this week? A 2 year old Beth Moore book she had missed. A friend at church raved about it. Yeah it’s books folks, not music and movies. We are the ones with the slow build not the red carpet treatment. Titles take time and it’s us with A D D I often fear. And I’m as guilty as the rest of us.

  • Les Dietzman

    This is a great article. I like the fact that Mike looks honestly at the responsibility that both publishers and retailers have in generating traffic. Back in the 90's when traffic was better, Christian stores had products that were drawing customers, like contemporary Christian music which was hot and growing. Times have changed and what was good enough then doesn't cut it any more. We have to do better with service as Christian retailers, and our technology in the store needs to be interesting for our customers. At the end of the day, we must be great partners, each doing our part to make an exciting and attractive store. We both have to stop complaining and start doing.

  • Les Dietzman

    This is a great article. I like the fact that Mike looks honestly at the responsibility that both publishers and retailers have in generating traffic. Back in the 90’s when traffic was better, Christian stores had products that were drawing customers, like contemporary Christian music which was hot and growing. Times have changed and what was good enough then doesn’t cut it any more. We have to do better with service as Christian retailers, and our technology in the store needs to be interesting for our customers. At the end of the day, we must be great partners, each doing our part to make an exciting and attractive store. We both have to stop complaining and start doing.

  • http://goodwordediting.com/ Mark Goodyear

    John, I agree that publishers can't expect "Harry Potter" type sales every day (or even every year).

    But surely with the depth of backlists and the number of new titles published each year, readers can expect to find highly engaging books every day (or at least every year).

    How can we sort through books better than Amazon's computerized referrals? Are we left with simple word of mouth?

    I guess that's Hyatt's question. How can we get people as excited to talk about books as they are excited to talk about their new iPhone?

  • http://goodwordediting.com Mark Goodyear

    John, I agree that publishers can’t expect “Harry Potter” type sales every day (or even every year).

    But surely with the depth of backlists and the number of new titles published each year, readers can expect to find highly engaging books every day (or at least every year).

    How can we sort through books better than Amazon’s computerized referrals? Are we left with simple word of mouth?

    I guess that’s Hyatt’s question. How can we get people as excited to talk about books as they are excited to talk about their new iPhone?

  • moe

    I would envision a big bookstore with comfortable sofas with lots of "coffee tables" and on each a "new release". I know it's hard to market so many books, but put new releases, or the "hot item" on coffee tables (like Apple does with their products), put HUGE posters of new, "high profile" books (ala Apple). We are "moved" by visual stimulation, and we need to see more "wow" and less bland bookstores. Also, have each bookstore employee gain knowledge of the books available each week (high profile books). Sadly, most bookstores look like places you want to go in and out. I would welcome a place that would radiate a nice "reading" atmosphere.

    * another thing would be to have "book club nights" or special events, again, ala Apple.

  • moe

    I would envision a big bookstore with comfortable sofas with lots of “coffee tables” and on each a “new release”. I know it’s hard to market so many books, but put new releases, or the “hot item” on coffee tables (like Apple does with their products), put HUGE posters of new, “high profile” books (ala Apple). We are “moved” by visual stimulation, and we need to see more “wow” and less bland bookstores. Also, have each bookstore employee gain knowledge of the books available each week (high profile books). Sadly, most bookstores look like places you want to go in and out. I would welcome a place that would radiate a nice “reading” atmosphere.

    * another thing would be to have “book club nights” or special events, again, ala Apple.

  • Moe

    @ Bryan Catherman: I agree that many people go to Apple stores to browse the web, etc. But look at Apple financial numbers and the % of purchases that come from their stores and you will realize that their stores are selling LOTS of items. I live in NYC and we have 2 Apple stores and I have gone to a few and I have never seen an empty store. In fact, I have yet to see a register empty. They always have at least 4 people behind registers and the line is HUGE. Not to mention the other Apple employees that walk around with credit card swipers where you can buy your product right away. Apple realized that there was money to be made in brick and Mortar stores. And they are opening up alot of them. Now, give them credit… they are great in advertising and showing their products. We can take a page or two from them and apply it to bookstores.

  • Moe

    @ Bryan Catherman: I agree that many people go to Apple stores to browse the web, etc. But look at Apple financial numbers and the % of purchases that come from their stores and you will realize that their stores are selling LOTS of items. I live in NYC and we have 2 Apple stores and I have gone to a few and I have never seen an empty store. In fact, I have yet to see a register empty. They always have at least 4 people behind registers and the line is HUGE. Not to mention the other Apple employees that walk around with credit card swipers where you can buy your product right away. Apple realized that there was money to be made in brick and Mortar stores. And they are opening up alot of them. Now, give them credit… they are great in advertising and showing their products. We can take a page or two from them and apply it to bookstores.

  • http://www.ecpa.org/ Michael Covington

    Okay Mike –

    I used to think all of the hype and busyness of the Apple Store was because of the consumer's need to feel that they belong. They walk into the store and sense that component of community, "People like me…like me!" And to a certain degree, I still believe that, I even sense it myself when I walk in.

    However, I have to confess, and you will laugh here, we have just ordered my new laptop here at work – you guessed it – MacBook Pro, shipped last night. After switching Mark over and realizing how seamless it fits into our current SBS and Exchange environment and yet how few issues we have had, I have to say that ultimately "It's the product. Stupid!"

  • http://www.ecpa.org Michael Covington

    Okay Mike –

    I used to think all of the hype and busyness of the Apple Store was because of the consumer’s need to feel that they belong. They walk into the store and sense that component of community, “People like me…like me!” And to a certain degree, I still believe that, I even sense it myself when I walk in.

    However, I have to confess, and you will laugh here, we have just ordered my new laptop here at work – you guessed it – MacBook Pro, shipped last night. After switching Mark over and realizing how seamless it fits into our current SBS and Exchange environment and yet how few issues we have had, I have to say that ultimately “It’s the product. Stupid!”

  • http://www.joewikert.com/ Joe Wikert

    Great observations, Mike. And you're right that "it's the product, stupid!", or at least that it's *mostly* the product. The formula includes factors for both product and store personnel. Many have commented that the typical big-box retailer doesn't have the passionate, book-loving employees you used to find in countless independent stores. I'm not saying all chain employees are bad, of course, but rather the experience is considerably different today vs. 10 or 15 years ago.

    Should publishers be thinking of new and exciting products to offer customers? Absolutely, but the store personnel need to do their part as well. After all, you can find those same Apple products in places like BestBuy and CompUSA, but you won't find the same energy level, enthusiasm and passion there.

    Now I need to get back to figuring out how I can contribute to this by creating more must-have products!…

  • http://www.joewikert.com Joe Wikert

    Great observations, Mike. And you’re right that “it’s the product, stupid!”, or at least that it’s *mostly* the product. The formula includes factors for both product and store personnel. Many have commented that the typical big-box retailer doesn’t have the passionate, book-loving employees you used to find in countless independent stores. I’m not saying all chain employees are bad, of course, but rather the experience is considerably different today vs. 10 or 15 years ago.

    Should publishers be thinking of new and exciting products to offer customers? Absolutely, but the store personnel need to do their part as well. After all, you can find those same Apple products in places like BestBuy and CompUSA, but you won’t find the same energy level, enthusiasm and passion there.

    Now I need to get back to figuring out how I can contribute to this by creating more must-have products!…

  • http://www.chipgallent.com/ Chip Gallent

    Great thought!

    I believe that an idea to explore is that most retailers don't "sell" anymore. They are outlets for you to buy. Think about it, when was the last time anyone sold you anything? Typically, you walk into a store and you know what you're looking for.

    I think in today's retail climate part of selling is the experience – just like the Apple Store. Otherwise, you're just waiting for people to come in and buy. You could also look at this as either an active or passive experience.

  • http://www.chipgallent.com Chip Gallent

    Great thought!

    I believe that an idea to explore is that most retailers don’t “sell” anymore. They are outlets for you to buy. Think about it, when was the last time anyone sold you anything? Typically, you walk into a store and you know what you’re looking for.

    I think in today’s retail climate part of selling is the experience – just like the Apple Store. Otherwise, you’re just waiting for people to come in and buy. You could also look at this as either an active or passive experience.

  • http://bryanallain.com/blog bryan

    Michael,

    I agree that great product is where it starts, but it's also about SHOWCASING that great product as well. If all of Apple's phones, computers, and iPods were in boxes on shelves, would there still be as much excitement in the store? hardly.

    I'm picturing a bookstore with 10-20 plasma widescreen TVs littered throughout. (I'd probably mount them vertically so they were oriented like a book). You could have a TV in each section that would be running through videos of authors talking about their books and highlighting the different selections in that section.

    Take it one step further and let customers scan a book in under the TV and instantly you can get a 30-second video about the book. it could be the author talking about the book, someone reading a small section of the book, the creative possibilities would be almost endless.

    An atmosphere like this would might be a little busier than your typical bookstore, but it would be exciting and would add a whole new dimension to the experience of browsing and buying books.

  • http://bryanallain.com/blog bryan

    Michael,

    I agree that great product is where it starts, but it’s also about SHOWCASING that great product as well. If all of Apple’s phones, computers, and iPods were in boxes on shelves, would there still be as much excitement in the store? hardly.

    I’m picturing a bookstore with 10-20 plasma widescreen TVs littered throughout. (I’d probably mount them vertically so they were oriented like a book). You could have a TV in each section that would be running through videos of authors talking about their books and highlighting the different selections in that section.

    Take it one step further and let customers scan a book in under the TV and instantly you can get a 30-second video about the book. it could be the author talking about the book, someone reading a small section of the book, the creative possibilities would be almost endless.

    An atmosphere like this would might be a little busier than your typical bookstore, but it would be exciting and would add a whole new dimension to the experience of browsing and buying books.

  • http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/ Rebecca LuElla Mille

    Mike,

    I agree that presentation is important, but I would still emphasize content.

    Presentation, especially for a new author, can get the ball rolling. I think of your publishing company's Door Within (Wayne Thomas Batson) books. When we did a blog tour for his trilogy last January, over and over bloggers raved about how beautiful the books were–the hardcover, the art, the color-coordinated font, the paper. But these are still books, not display art. Unless the story within the covers is up to the promise of the great presentation, it will fall flat. (Obviously Wayne's books did NOT fall flat).

    Think of a meal portioned on a plate in an eye-catching way, but every dish has too much salt. How often will you plan to come back? How many people will you recommend try that restaurant?

    This is especially on my mind because of a recent read that did not live up to it's promise–created in part by publisher hype (catalogue placement included) and in part by attractive packaging. It would be interesting to see if the sales for that book meet expectations. (Of course, I'll never know. ;-) )

    Becky

  • http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/ Rebecca LuElla Miller

    Mike,

    I agree that presentation is important, but I would still emphasize content.

    Presentation, especially for a new author, can get the ball rolling. I think of your publishing company’s Door Within (Wayne Thomas Batson) books. When we did a blog tour for his trilogy last January, over and over bloggers raved about how beautiful the books were–the hardcover, the art, the color-coordinated font, the paper. But these are still books, not display art. Unless the story within the covers is up to the promise of the great presentation, it will fall flat. (Obviously Wayne’s books did NOT fall flat).

    Think of a meal portioned on a plate in an eye-catching way, but every dish has too much salt. How often will you plan to come back? How many people will you recommend try that restaurant?

    This is especially on my mind because of a recent read that did not live up to it’s promise–created in part by publisher hype (catalogue placement included) and in part by attractive packaging. It would be interesting to see if the sales for that book meet expectations. (Of course, I’ll never know. ;-) )

    Becky

  • http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/ Rebecca LuElla Mille

    I forgot to mention, part of presentation, in my view, is Famous Person as Author. Sure, that can generate initial sales, but unless there is a gripping story (or insightful content, in the case of non-fiction) to go along with it, there will not be anything close to a Harry Potter-esque explosion in book sales.

    I don't understand why acquisition editors don't look first for the best story or content they can find, rather than looking for Famous Person to write a mediocre book and hope that the celeb status will bring in the readers.

    If selling books is really all about word of mouth, which seems to be the going theory, then I believe it takes more than presentation to make an Apple-like book. Apples don't just LOOK cool; they do cool things.

    (And by the way, I've seen a similar scene to the one you described in the Apple Store in the Brea Mall.)

    Becky

  • http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/ Rebecca LuElla Miller

    I forgot to mention, part of presentation, in my view, is Famous Person as Author. Sure, that can generate initial sales, but unless there is a gripping story (or insightful content, in the case of non-fiction) to go along with it, there will not be anything close to a Harry Potter-esque explosion in book sales.

    I don’t understand why acquisition editors don’t look first for the best story or content they can find, rather than looking for Famous Person to write a mediocre book and hope that the celeb status will bring in the readers.

    If selling books is really all about word of mouth, which seems to be the going theory, then I believe it takes more than presentation to make an Apple-like book. Apples don’t just LOOK cool; they do cool things.

    (And by the way, I’ve seen a similar scene to the one you described in the Apple Store in the Brea Mall.)

    Becky

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com/ Dennis

    I would like to echo Becky's comments. If there is going to be a change in the retail model, it must include a change both in how writers are selected for book publishing and perhaps even a change in how writers approach their craft. After all, the product begins with the writer much as Apple's products begin with their new concepts team.

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com Dennis

    I would like to echo Becky’s comments. If there is going to be a change in the retail model, it must include a change both in how writers are selected for book publishing and perhaps even a change in how writers approach their craft. After all, the product begins with the writer much as Apple’s products begin with their new concepts team.

  • http://blacktrainstudio.biz/ Gordon

    Michael, great insight!

    Love your blog.

    After designing in the Christian retail industry and being a fan of Apple for many years I think there's no 'gee-wiz' bang product in publishing that can generate the type of traffic Apple generates.

    I think the Christian retail industry somtimes forget what makes this industry relevant: answers, community and soul building.

    You really do find answers to life's most perplexing question in Christian books. But as Michael pointed out – do the staff model spiritual care, wisdom and community?

    We are living in a world where it's so fast paced and so busy Christian retail SHOULD thrive.

    In the U.S. we may have more ways to communicate but we're more lonely than ever and lack community. Did you see the latest commercial for single Italian hot sandwhiches you can make? It's a microwave sandwhich for single servings! We don't even eat together!

    Imagine a Christian store where it's a haven, where you find community and word to refresh your soul.

    The worse thing Christian retail stores can do is to hire cheap labor to man the cashier registers. You need spiritually minded and soul-caring 'Barnabas' at the stores. They must model community, and Christ – thereby making books relevant.

    John Maxwell once said, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

  • http://blacktrainstudio.biz Gordon

    Michael, great insight!

    Love your blog.

    After designing in the Christian retail industry and being a fan of Apple for many years I think there’s no ‘gee-wiz’ bang product in publishing that can generate the type of traffic Apple generates.

    I think the Christian retail industry somtimes forget what makes this industry relevant: answers, community and soul building.

    You really do find answers to life’s most perplexing question in Christian books. But as Michael pointed out – do the staff model spiritual care, wisdom and community?

    We are living in a world where it’s so fast paced and so busy Christian retail SHOULD thrive.

    In the U.S. we may have more ways to communicate but we’re more lonely than ever and lack community. Did you see the latest commercial for single Italian hot sandwhiches you can make? It’s a microwave sandwhich for single servings! We don’t even eat together!

    Imagine a Christian store where it’s a haven, where you find community and word to refresh your soul.

    The worse thing Christian retail stores can do is to hire cheap labor to man the cashier registers. You need spiritually minded and soul-caring ‘Barnabas’ at the stores. They must model community, and Christ – thereby making books relevant.

    John Maxwell once said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

  • http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/wow-factor/ A Christian Worldvie

    The WowFactor

    In a recent post, Hyatt discussed learning how to conduct the book business from the retail model, specifically from Apple.
    He had visited a mall where the only busy store was Apple. He stopped in and was impressed with the service—the knowledge and …

  • http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/wow-factor/ A Christian Worldview of Fiction

    The WowFactor

    In a recent post, Hyatt discussed learning how to conduct the book business from the retail model, specifically from Apple.
    He had visited a mall where the only busy store was Apple. He stopped in and was impressed with the service—the knowledge and …

  • Jake

    Listen to Dennis. He is on to something. The Purpose Driven book was not in demand because of great marketing, although it certainly helped. It was a great book because it addressed the empty, aimless lives many Americans lead. We seem to have among our genes one that cries, "Why am I living and why does it matter?"
    As long as people get enough quiet to think their own thoughts, sooner or later they are confronted by that one. The world has an answer: be a celebrity. Thus, find for me one teenager, not connected to church, that hasn't at least contemplated that one. Even the Harry Potter books hold out that solution. Here is a pitiful, neglected, homley little boy that becomes a celebrity and powerful by the use of witchcraft. Kids and adults want power and purpose. Only the solutions to this hunt change from generation to generation. In religion the solutions remain constant. And books?
    If computers were in vented first and then books, they would be the rage and amaze people with their own unique "talents". With books you can find something you weren't looking for, just by paging through. You don't need a battery or electricity — just a candle at night. You don't break down or have to wait. You can go instantly to a marked page and flip back and forth instantly. There are no on-line fees to pay and hackers can't hurt a blessed word. (maybe roaches, but not hackers) You can loan it out or give it away and know that the recipient will only have access to read what you give him/her.
    You can underline and review and memorize because it it all instantly right there on demand. Keep the books!
    Now, a suggestion: many wonderful books are out of print. The first time around, they were printed on paper that turned yellow and a tiny font was used. Many people even missed them the first time around because they had so little time to read while they worked long hours and raised their families. But now? They are in their fifties and have some time to read and are more interested than ever in the ultimate questions about God and eternity. However, these wonderful books are often out of print or else in the original tiny fonts that are not attractive to readers. Get the paper white and the fonts readable and get the promotion going on these old goodies and I think they will sell. Those who previously read and loved them will be buying the old classics for their grown sons, daughters, and grandchildren. If you make loved books available again, the word of mouth promotions will be in motion.—- Jake

  • Jake

    Listen to Dennis. He is on to something. The Purpose Driven book was not in demand because of great marketing, although it certainly helped. It was a great book because it addressed the empty, aimless lives many Americans lead. We seem to have among our genes one that cries, “Why am I living and why does it matter?”
    As long as people get enough quiet to think their own thoughts, sooner or later they are confronted by that one. The world has an answer: be a celebrity. Thus, find for me one teenager, not connected to church, that hasn’t at least contemplated that one. Even the Harry Potter books hold out that solution. Here is a pitiful, neglected, homley little boy that becomes a celebrity and powerful by the use of witchcraft. Kids and adults want power and purpose. Only the solutions to this hunt change from generation to generation. In religion the solutions remain constant. And books?
    If computers were in vented first and then books, they would be the rage and amaze people with their own unique “talents”. With books you can find something you weren’t looking for, just by paging through. You don’t need a battery or electricity — just a candle at night. You don’t break down or have to wait. You can go instantly to a marked page and flip back and forth instantly. There are no on-line fees to pay and hackers can’t hurt a blessed word. (maybe roaches, but not hackers) You can loan it out or give it away and know that the recipient will only have access to read what you give him/her.
    You can underline and review and memorize because it it all instantly right there on demand. Keep the books!
    Now, a suggestion: many wonderful books are out of print. The first time around, they were printed on paper that turned yellow and a tiny font was used. Many people even missed them the first time around because they had so little time to read while they worked long hours and raised their families. But now? They are in their fifties and have some time to read and are more interested than ever in the ultimate questions about God and eternity. However, these wonderful books are often out of print or else in the original tiny fonts that are not attractive to readers. Get the paper white and the fonts readable and get the promotion going on these old goodies and I think they will sell. Those who previously read and loved them will be buying the old classics for their grown sons, daughters, and grandchildren. If you make loved books available again, the word of mouth promotions will be in motion.—- Jake

  • http://eubanks.douglassandassociates.com/ Ed

    RE: Bryan Catherman:

    You say that you observed a packed Apple Store, yet only "one in 12" left with a bag. But compare that with other mall stores– or other retail stores in general.

    Let's say there were 500 customers moving through that particular Apple Store on that particular evening. One in 12 would be over 40 buying customers– probably substantially more than other retail stores. Plus, nearly all of them are buying high-end (read: higher priced) merchandise (i.e., a $1000+ iMac or a $100+ iPod), or support material for those they already bought (i.e., software).

    Also, how many of them walked out with an computer or iPod they brought in to visit the customer/tech support with? What is so easy to forget– but crucial in today's fickle retail world– is that Apple has created a culture of faithful users, and a lot of this is because of things like the Genius Bar tech support. What would an equivalent setup be in a retail book store? Maybe a Recommendations Bar, where very well-read people can take a look at the several titles you brought in and recommend other similar works…

    Also, don't underestimate the power of those numbers coming in to check their e-mail, either. They are doing so on Macs– and maybe they are using a Mac for the first time. Thus, the seeds are being sown for future purchase consideration, even if it takes another dozen visits to convince them.

  • http://eubanks.douglassandassociates.com Ed

    RE: Bryan Catherman:

    You say that you observed a packed Apple Store, yet only “one in 12″ left with a bag. But compare that with other mall stores– or other retail stores in general.

    Let’s say there were 500 customers moving through that particular Apple Store on that particular evening. One in 12 would be over 40 buying customers– probably substantially more than other retail stores. Plus, nearly all of them are buying high-end (read: higher priced) merchandise (i.e., a $1000+ iMac or a $100+ iPod), or support material for those they already bought (i.e., software).

    Also, how many of them walked out with an computer or iPod they brought in to visit the customer/tech support with? What is so easy to forget– but crucial in today’s fickle retail world– is that Apple has created a culture of faithful users, and a lot of this is because of things like the Genius Bar tech support. What would an equivalent setup be in a retail book store? Maybe a Recommendations Bar, where very well-read people can take a look at the several titles you brought in and recommend other similar works…

    Also, don’t underestimate the power of those numbers coming in to check their e-mail, either. They are doing so on Macs– and maybe they are using a Mac for the first time. Thus, the seeds are being sown for future purchase consideration, even if it takes another dozen visits to convince them.

  • http://www.technotipster.com/ Roseanne Baker

    I had a conversation with my local book seller today, about why I love his store. (Going there is my "payday" treat to myself, so I go once or twice a month.) Located here in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, Book Brothers sells used books. The owners are frequently going on book buying excursions, so I never know what new little gem I'll encounter when I browse. The store is crammed with books, but not cramped. The prices are reasonable, usually between 5.00 and 9.99 for a book, and in addition to hard-to-find classics, I frequently run into books published within the last year or two. Although I still buy my new books online (at Chapters.ca), I love going to Book Brothers because it isn't just about ordering a book, it's also about being around other people who love books, it's about stumbling upon books I wasn't even thinking I would be interested in, it's about being offered a coffee, tea or lemonade (free!) while I browse. It's about having a couch to sit on! I grab a pile of books, sit down, haul out my Blackberry, and access amazon.com, to check out book reviews.

    But the biggest perk of all (IMHO) is that the Book Brothers actually read! They know their stock; I've heard people come in off the street, ask for a title or an author, and one of the two Book Brothers (they really are brothers…) can find it. And they bend over backwards to find obscure books for people, using the Internet to track things down, and then performing the customer service of ordering the book on the customer's behalf.

    Did I mention that they talk to their customers about books?

    Or that they partner with local schools, helping teachers to stretch their tight book buying budgets?

    Retailers of new books don't seem to be able to compete with online book stores on price, necessarily, but at least they could stock their stores with people who actually enjoy reading, who have a basic feel for the stock, and who provide the kind of retailing experience that readers want. Have you profiled your customers lately? Who's out there buying books? A good book on this topic is http://www.practicalpersonas.com/ You'll learn how to create "personas" representing key customer segments. You could think of these as half a dozen "avatars" which helps staff to understand customers better. And make sure that at least two avatars represent the young.

    Bend over backwards to be an appealing magnet to your clients! And once you figure out what they like, and you've got them coming, reinvent the experience a little.

    Book Brothers has only been in town for two years, and have barely advertised, but word-of-mouth buzz is sending plenty of people to them. And those people aren't just browsing, they're buying.

    Stop by Book Brothers if you're ever in Chatham, and you'll see what I mean!

  • http://www.technotipster.com Roseanne Baker

    I had a conversation with my local book seller today, about why I love his store. (Going there is my “payday” treat to myself, so I go once or twice a month.) Located here in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, Book Brothers sells used books. The owners are frequently going on book buying excursions, so I never know what new little gem I’ll encounter when I browse. The store is crammed with books, but not cramped. The prices are reasonable, usually between 5.00 and 9.99 for a book, and in addition to hard-to-find classics, I frequently run into books published within the last year or two. Although I still buy my new books online (at Chapters.ca), I love going to Book Brothers because it isn’t just about ordering a book, it’s also about being around other people who love books, it’s about stumbling upon books I wasn’t even thinking I would be interested in, it’s about being offered a coffee, tea or lemonade (free!) while I browse. It’s about having a couch to sit on! I grab a pile of books, sit down, haul out my Blackberry, and access amazon.com, to check out book reviews.

    But the biggest perk of all (IMHO) is that the Book Brothers actually read! They know their stock; I’ve heard people come in off the street, ask for a title or an author, and one of the two Book Brothers (they really are brothers…) can find it. And they bend over backwards to find obscure books for people, using the Internet to track things down, and then performing the customer service of ordering the book on the customer’s behalf.

    Did I mention that they talk to their customers about books?

    Or that they partner with local schools, helping teachers to stretch their tight book buying budgets?

    Retailers of new books don’t seem to be able to compete with online book stores on price, necessarily, but at least they could stock their stores with people who actually enjoy reading, who have a basic feel for the stock, and who provide the kind of retailing experience that readers want. Have you profiled your customers lately? Who’s out there buying books? A good book on this topic is http://www.practicalpersonas.com/ You’ll learn how to create “personas” representing key customer segments. You could think of these as half a dozen “avatars” which helps staff to understand customers better. And make sure that at least two avatars represent the young.

    Bend over backwards to be an appealing magnet to your clients! And once you figure out what they like, and you’ve got them coming, reinvent the experience a little.

    Book Brothers has only been in town for two years, and have barely advertised, but word-of-mouth buzz is sending plenty of people to them. And those people aren’t just browsing, they’re buying.

    Stop by Book Brothers if you’re ever in Chatham, and you’ll see what I mean!

  • http://www.unleashthebeautyandpoweroflove.com/ Herman Villanueva

    Thanks Mike,
    I took some time thinking about your Apple computer/Generating Retail Traffic article. Had moments of deep thinking. I, too, wonder how many lives will be influenced by my life when I take the time to better my life.

    Also, after 30 rounds of editing my book during the past 9 months, I can go another 30 rounds of editing to fine tune the message of my book. Even though writing is an ardous task, I am more encouraged. The book has to be worthwhile to read and has the message to uplift a downtrodden soul.

    Herman Villanueva
    Honolulu, Hawaii

  • http://www.unleashthebeautyandpoweroflove.com Herman Villanueva

    Thanks Mike,
    I took some time thinking about your Apple computer/Generating Retail Traffic article. Had moments of deep thinking. I, too, wonder how many lives will be influenced by my life when I take the time to better my life.

    Also, after 30 rounds of editing my book during the past 9 months, I can go another 30 rounds of editing to fine tune the message of my book. Even though writing is an ardous task, I am more encouraged. The book has to be worthwhile to read and has the message to uplift a downtrodden soul.

    Herman Villanueva
    Honolulu, Hawaii

  • Jacob

    you make it sound like it's all about money. that makes my stomach churn.

  • Jacob

    you make it sound like it’s all about money. that makes my stomach churn.

  • http://metropolitanmama.blogspot.com/ Stephanie

    What a great post – well-written, insightful, thought-provoking, and innovative. I'm certain that this type of creative thinking is behind Thomas Nelson's success.

  • http://metropolitanmama.blogspot.com Stephanie

    What a great post – well-written, insightful, thought-provoking, and innovative. I’m certain that this type of creative thinking is behind Thomas Nelson’s success.

  • http://www.ylodps3fix.net ps3 ylod fix

    Its about time we talk about retailing again , need to read more books like that