More Customer Buying From Indie Bookstores Online
It all began in March of 2020, when bookstore customers were locked down in their homes. Bookstores were closed to in-store shopping, so customers began buying books online in record numbers. It’s been three years since then, and some stores are now reporting that their in-store sales have returned to “normal” pre-COVID levels. If in-store sales at independent bookstores are back to pre-pandemic levels, what impact has that had on their online sales?
During the recently completed 2022 holiday shopping season, we saw that “post-COVID” online sales revenue (blue graph below) for all IndieCommerce (IC) & IndieLite (IL) websites were over 158% higher than pre-COVID 2019 holiday sales (orange graph below).
Other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) show that 2022 online holiday sales were embraced by independent bookstore customers. These include:
- The number of online transactions increased by 145.84% vs the same two-month period in 2019.
- The average value of an order increased from $49.70 in 2019 to $52.23 for the same holiday shopping period in 2022.
There was also a 159.56% increase in the quantity of items sold in 2022 vs 2019.
More Customers and More Motivation to Buy from Indies Online
The KPIs mentioned above are excellent — and indicate that something positive is going on. The two big factors driving these trends are (1) the increase in online customers, and (2) how motivated those customers are to complete an online purchase from an independent bookstore’s website.
During the recent 2022 holiday shopping season from November 1 to December 31, 2022 (blue graph below), the percentage of online customers completing a purchase at an IC or IL website increased from 2.13% in 2019 (orange graph below) to 2.90% in 2022 (blue graph below). A higher percentage of online customers completed purchases than they did during the same period in pre-COVID 2019.
Web Traffic Is Up
The number of online customers visiting IC and IL websites during the 2022 holiday shopping season was up 83.48% vs pre-COVID 2019. Below are the top five channels that drove the majority of traffic into IC and IL websites in November and December of 2022. They are listed in descending order based on the amount of traffic they generated for IC and IL websites.
Organic Search — An increase in customers using search engines such as Google to find IC and IL websites. 2022 referrals (blue graph below) were up↑ 75.18% vs 2019 (orange graph below).
- Direct — Customers enter a bookstore’s URL or bookmarked page into their browser and go directly into a bookstore’s IC or IL website. These holiday referrals were up↑ 106% in 2022 compared to the same two-month period 2019.
- Referral — Customers on a website click on a link that then refers them to an IC or IL website. These referrals were up↑ 52.25% in December and November of 2022 vs 2019.
- Social Media — Customers click on links to an IC or IL website on social media. These holiday referrals were up↑ over 22.41% in 2022 vs the same two-month period in 2019.
Email Marketing — Click-throughs from Bookstore Email Marketing were up 189.15%. Those new email-driven customers bought more gifts in November and December of 2022 than they did in 2019.
The Future of Indie Bookstore E-commerce
Online traffic and e-commerce sales are down from the ridiculously high sales numbers many bookstores experienced in 2020. That’s to be expected; with the fear of COVID infection waning, people have returned to shopping in bookstores. The expectation was that once shopping in store returned to normal, online sales would drop to pre-COVID levels. Remarkably, that has not happened. In 2022 IndieCommerce websites had online sales of over $42M. That’s a big jump from $12M in 2019. That averages out to $65K per store in 2022 (with a median of $35K for 650 stores) compared to an average of just $26K per store in 2019 (with a median of ~$8K for 502 stores).
The growth in online sales for independent bookstores is something that few thought was possible with Amazon’s almost complete dominance of online book sales. The ABACUS-21 report found that 29.6% of reporting stores sales revenue came from online sales. In 2018, that percentage was just 1.3%. That’s a huge increase and now represents a significant percentage of indie bookstore annual revenue.
To take advantage of the growing popularity of shopping with indies online, every indie bookstore should have a high-quality website that is professionally designed, e-commerce enabled, and fits the specific needs of their store. If you are interested in finding out if the new IndieCommerce 2.0 platform would fit the e-commerce needs of your bookstore, we’re here to help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.