All along Main Street, changing technology is shifting buying patterns. Some projections put online spending at half of all retail spending by 2015, and smartphone applications like ShopSavvy allow for instore price comparisons against competitors. The challenge is to work with the technology where you can to increase sales while still maintaining the commitment to place-based strategies and creating a product and experience that cannot be replicated online.
Nowhere are the changes more dramatic than in the bookstore. In the short time on the market, ebooks already comprise 9% of trade book sales, and Amazon, who had already dealt a blow to bookstores, sells 180 ebooks for every 100 hardbacks. Amazon’s Kindle and the Nook by Barnes and Noble are just two of the electronic devices that people are reading on, and for some, there’s hardly a reason to walk into the neighborhood bookstore. But in a twist this week, Google this week released its ebookstore.
Instead of working to close doors of independent bricks and mortar stores, the information technology behemoth has partnered with the American Booksellers Association (ABA) to allow independent booksellers to sell Google ebooks through the ABA ecommerce tool, indiecommerce. ABA members who are selling online already, this strategy may encourage online shoppers to “buy locally” online, with the 30% of non-publisher profits being split between Google and the bookseller. Currently the only two Virginia bookstores selling ebooks are Richmond’s Fountain Bookstore and Prince Books in Norfolk.
Web based marketing–even that involving ecommerce–can actually promote the bricks and mortar store. Portands’s Powell’s City of Books is a destination in part because of its successful online presence. Who knows, while buying an ebook a customer may see the bookseller’s advertisement for a signed first edition, and it may even be worth a trip the store.