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Old 10-09-2006, 05:12 AM   #1
dthomsen8
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Default Local bookstore website

Is there any reason to believe that a local bookstore can compete with Amazon or Borders by offering a large selection of books with a shopping cart on a website, however well done?

It seems to me that a local bookstore has a natural market with its neighborhood and regional market, but competing with the bookstore giants on their own turf is unlikely to succeed. The website can promote foot traffic, but not the purchase of books online for customers far away.

What do you think?
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Old 10-09-2006, 06:06 AM   #2
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I agree. Stores like that need either to trade on their location or by selling niche books or having specialist expertise - I don't think they can hope to compete with Amazon or the like for mass-market general items. It's all about USP.
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Old 10-09-2006, 08:13 AM   #3
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Hard to see how, unless they have a solid niche in some category with fans. Nowadays, you can get almost anything from Amazon or Barnes & Noble online in two days, at a discount, possibly postage-free.

In fact, what local dealer would want to try to compete with the big guys?

   
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Old 10-09-2006, 10:36 AM   #4
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KT:

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what local dealer would want to try to compete with the big guys?
The local bookshop has one advantage over people like Amazon: it's local. That means that people can read before they buy. If the shop stocks what people tend to buy locally, that can be a big advantage, for of course it can't compete on the range of books available. A lot of Amazon's books sell at no, or little, less than a good local bookshop can sell it at, and often when postage is charged it costs more from Amazon & co.

   
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Old 10-09-2006, 11:42 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rowley View Post
The local bookshop has one advantage over people like Amazon: it's local.
Ah, but that was not the question.

   
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Old 10-09-2006, 12:12 PM   #6
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KT:

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Ah, but that was not the question
But it suggested the answer to it: by all means advertise your service on a Web site, emphasizing your ability to supply any book in print and your strong lines, but don't try to set up a mail order delivery service.

   
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Old 10-10-2006, 03:34 AM   #7
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Default No shopping cart?

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Originally Posted by Michael Rowley View Post
KT: But it suggested the answer to it: by all means advertise your service on a Web site, emphasizing your ability to supply any book in print and your strong lines, but don't try to set up a mail order delivery service.
Currently the bookshop prospect has a mail order delivery service, and that is the main thrust of the web site. Oh, there is a page about in-store events, and one showing hours and directions, and another with a not yet created blog by the owner, but every page has books to order down each side. Without the mail order books setup, there would hardly be any website left.

My advice to the owner is going to be to clean up at least some of the average of 100 HTML validation errors per page and the 2 CSS validation errors that affect appearance, and then have me work on getting more links and submitting to search engines and directories.

If he follows your advice, Michael, he would start over with a very simplified web site. Maybe he should do that, but I doubt that he will do so without trying to make the online book sales business plan work. The shopping cart and book information and merchant credit card accounts must be costing him quite a bit, so simplifying the site would save money.
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Old 10-10-2006, 03:58 AM   #8
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I think there's a middle way here, David. What any site needs is a USP: and just selling books online doesn't cut the mustard, What he needs is compelling content to get people in: whether that is opinion, advice, specialised knowledge or whatever. Without adding that in spadefuls, he is wasting effort I suspect.
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Old 10-10-2006, 05:35 AM   #9
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Default Usp

USP is not a term I recognized immediately, so here is a description from Wikipedia for myself and any lurkers out there.

This bookstore site has no USP, and very little content beyond the books for sale. I doubt that he can really get a USP, but otherwise he is doing what you say, wasting time and money on a bad business strategy. Thank you for suggesting a middle way, but it won't be easy to get it going. There is a hint of more in the undone owner's blog, but that isn't much to go on.
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Old 10-18-2006, 09:47 AM   #10
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Default A Middle Way?

Quote:
Originally Posted by LoisWakeman View Post
I think there's a middle way here, David. What any site needs is a USP: and just selling books online doesn't cut the mustard, What he needs is compelling content to get people in: whether that is opinion, advice, specialised knowledge or whatever. Without adding that in spadefuls, he is wasting effort I suspect.
I called the bookstore owner back shortly after posting these messages, but he did not reply until today. We will get together at his bookstore at 9 AM, but the store doesn't open until 11 AM. I prepared a packet of information back when I called him, but maybe I should revise it. I prepared a summary page telling him to get the technical details fixed on his existing web site, and then to have someone (me!) do submissions to directories and web search engines. The technical fixes mostly involve the shopping cart parameters.

Now I am not so sure what to suggest to him. Most of the forum replies here say he cannot hope to succeed against the really big guys selling books online, given the expenses of running a shopping cart and the lack of reasons for customers to prefer his site to the big guys. If that is the right business decision, then he should scrap the existing site and get one that promotes his bookstore by author talks, children's story hours, and the like to draw in customers, with updates to keep it current.

Otherwise, he should follow the course I laid out at first. Fix any technical problems (hundreds of errors in validation), add and keep local interest items current, and start submissions to search engines and directories after the fixes. The fixes should be done by the initial developer. Some detective work on the web tells me that the initial developer is an individual in Philadelphia doing web development from his home.

Either way, he should get traffic statistics from Godaddy.com, where he is hosted and where he is using their shopping cart package. Traffic statistics are essential to figuring out what is happening now with the site, and what could happen if he redoes the site or tries for online sales.
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