It might be unfair to say that Amazon killed independent bookstores, but they’d make a tempting suspect in a police lineup. With lower costs and wider selections, Amazon’s meteoric success has also meant the free fall crash of many small, local bookstores.
And that context makes the latest news all the more puzzling – because Amazon just opened a small, local bookstore.
Their flagship real-life bookstore, Amazon Books, opened for business in Seattle on November 2nd, 2015. And unlike their towering, sprawling warehouses, this store spans just 5,500 square feet, roughly a fifth of the size of your average Barnes & Noble.
As much as the news reads like a headline straight from The Onion, there’s aspects of this launch that makes a great deal of sense. After all, they’re using many of the same strategies in this launch that led the e-commerce giant to domination on the web. (But, you know, in real life this time.)
In this post, I’ll explain how Amazon is using the principles of digital marketing to launch their local bookstore. As crazy as it might seem for Amazon to take a swing at running a small bookstore, their approach illustrates how digital marketing principles can work both on and offline.
Get to know your audience
One of the essential advantages of online marketing platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads is marketers’ ability to deliver specific content to a specific audience. Importantly, these platforms allow advertisers to measure how their ads are performing, and continuously optimize them to improve conversions.
While Amazon Books might appear to be like any other small book retailer, how they’re targeting their audience gives them a distinct advantage.
Amazon Books chose the city of Seattle more than just because it rests near their corporate offices. While there are plenty of things that Seattle doesn’t have time for, reading isn’t one of them; Seattle happens to take the #1 spot for Amazon’s own list of ‘Most Well-Read Cities’. And their efforts to target readers doesn’t stop with just location.
In addition to prime book-selling real estate, the store also offers a supply of books tailored to local audience’s tastes. Along with national bestsellers, they’re also catering to Seattleites by using customer data, such as customer habits and shopping patterns, to stock books most likely to sell. Finally (but not surprisingly), Amazon Books is also offering Kindle devices at this location, a decision based on the growing demand for electronic readers.
Using the same customer research that enabled Amazon.com to become the world’s go-to online retailer for everything everywhere, Amazon Books has prepared itself for a local audience.
Use the principles of CRO
One of the greatest advantages of an online storefront is the ability to A/B test everything to perfectly design a shopping experience most likely to convert visitors into paying customers. This practice is called conversion rate optimization, or CRO for short.
Amazon Books illustrates that this practice doesn’t have to stay online by using what they’ve learned about customer behavior through their website, much like how grocery stores are designed to appeal to consumer psychology.
Instead of moving bulk product, Amazon Books is more interested in providing a limited stock of only 5,000 to 6,000 titles, presented in a way to sell more effectively. In addition to offering inventory targeted to their local audience, this bookstore includes some conversion-rate-boosting measures such as:
- Improving shopper navigation: Instead of cramming books binding outwards to store a higher amount of inventory, each book is displayed cover outwards to attract shoppers. As with websites, easier navigation can help make a sale.
- Offering proof of quality: Signage below each book includes things like bestseller status, averaged reviews rating on Amazon.com, and review snippets from real Amazon shoppers. Social proof is an essential part of persuading shoppers to convert.
When considering the ways that Amazon is creating an optimized shopping experience similar to shopping on their website, it’s much easier to imagine how Amazon believed that a small, local bookstore can be profitable in an age of e-commerce.
While independent book stores will continue to struggle against the competition of online retailers like Amazon, this new book store should offer proof that offline businesses can gain an advantage by implementing customer data too.
As the new vice president of Amazon Books Jennifer Cast said in The Seattle Times,
“We’re taking the data we have and we’re creating physical places with it.” “We hope this is not our only one. But we’ll see,” she continued.
If Amazon’s use of digital marketing strategies serves them as well in the real world as it does online, you might find a new Amazon Books locations opening soon near you.
Tim Hand is a writer from Boise, ID who writes about small businesses, marketing, and web development. After earning his Bachelor’s Degree in English at the University of South Carolina, Tim moved to the Treasure Valley to work with internet marketing firms as a content marketer and SEO. Connect with Tim on Twitter @TimWHand.