Reinventing the Bookstore

Authentic Chinese culture fuses seamlessly with Western inspiration to create the vibrant and diverse city of Hong Kong. Setting aside mainstream shopping malls and cuisines, curious expats can find some wonderful bookshops hidden in the neighbourhoods here.

Since 1975, (大業藝術書店) Tai Yip Art Bookshop is a well-laid-out book store specializes in Chinese art and is an oasis for artistic locals and expats in Hong Kong.  An extensive list of topics are up for grabs, aside from mainstream selections such as classic literature, architecture, painting and religious art, uncommon titles in genres ranging from tea ware to snuff bottles to lacquers are also on the shelves.

The bookstore is dead, long live the bookstore. As the years pass by, we hear endlessly sad premonitions about the imminent death of the physical books shop. Today, the entire retail industry is facing a digital revolution but somehow bookstores seem to lag behind.

Independent bookstore 's resurgence are depends on: community, curation, and convening.

Community: Independent bookstore were some of the first to champion the idea of localism; bookstore owners promoted the idea of consumers supporting their local communities by shopping at neighbourhood businesses.

Curation: Independent booksellers began to focus on curating inventory that allowed them to provide a more personal and specialized customer experience. Rather than only recommending bestsellers, they developed personal relationships with customers by helping them discover up-and-coming authors and unexpected titles.

Convening: Independent booksellers also promote their stores as intellectual centers for convening customers with likeminded interests—offering lectures, book signings, game nights, young adult reading groups.

From my point of view, the bookstore need to "reboot" to extend its reachability and create a personalised journey:

Improve Digital Presence

Small and independent bookstores usually think that they do not need a digital presence. The reason is that they mistake digital with E-Commerce. When the smartphone becomes the first screen, there is no business strategy without ‘digital’, even when you do not want to sell books online.

Promote Loyalty and Retention

Retaining a customer is 6x cheaper than acquiring a new one. Customer retention is one of the key factors of an healthy business growth. It is a fact. But how can you convert random users into loyal customers? When you connect with empowered customers, you cannot rely on traditional loyalty cards, offers and discounts.  Instead, a personalised recommendation booklist would be a nice human touch.  Further event marketing is a key elements to attract customers over the time.

Create a Personal Journey

The personalisation is the main trait of a successful marketing strategy. No bookstore can live without shelves, a critical touch point of the retail customer journey, both in the digital and physical worlds. Just, the shelves do not have to be necessarily tangible. They could also be 'tappable'.

Every path described till now brings to one inevitable conclusion: to survive the retail revolution, the book shop must to be reinvented. This is not just a suggestion, this is the future. Even the digital presence is important but not enough to engage digital customers and convince them to buy.

The bookstore is dead, long live the bookstore.

Reinventing the Bookstore
James Wong
14 April, 2021
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