Blending Online and Bricks-and-Mortar Shopping

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Now that Google eBooks™ can be sold via IndieCommerce websites, bookstores are finding creative ways to market them, including using QR codes on shelf-talkers to promote sales. Green Apple Books in San Francisco and McLean and Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan, have both designed shelf-talkers featuring QR codes. Customers can scan the square codes with their smartphones and go directly to the featured titles on the store’s IndieCommerce website. Once there, they can save the information or immediately buy and download the e-books.

Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books explained, “It’s basically a shelf-talker pitching Google eBooks with a QR code. We made a template, then just used a free online QR code generator to create the code that brings anyone with an iPhone or other QR reader directly to that item on our website…” While Green Apple uses a printed template for the QR shelf-talkers, they hand-write the title and price to better mimic in-store handwritten reviews.

Mulvihill added that once store staff is fully trained (which he hopes will happen within a week or so), “we’ll put these all over the displays at the front of the store on any agency plan titles. If nothing else, we think it’ll lead to plenty of customer questions. And at best, we can actually sell e-books from within the store.”

At McLean and Eakin, Matt Norcross initially created the QR-code shelf-talkers to slow “leakage” from customers who use the bricks-and-mortar store to do their research but make their purchases somewhere else. “It’s my hope that if we keep the customers busy scanning things that direct them to our website they’ll be less likely to use it to comparison shop,” he said. “On the flip side, it could be good for them to use it to comparison shop when it comes to agency model e-books. I’ve even thought of creating book bands with two codes on them so customers can quickly see that are prices are the same as ‘the other guy.’”

Customers have noticed the new feature on McLean & Eakin’s shelf-talkers. “I’ve had one exchange with a group of young customers that thought it was ‘Super cool!’ and that led to a longer conversation about how much our website can do,” said Norcross. “I think indie booksellers need to get better at communicating how much potential the new IndieCommerce sites offer to their customers. Without fail, every time I show (and I mean inviting them behind the counter and showing them on a computer) a customer that you can see if a book is on our shelf using our website they are blown away.”

Although Norcross noted that e-book sales might not fund his retirement yet, offering e-books “pulls the customer in for an initial purchase and once they jump through the hoops of the checkout process, it’s much easier from then on.”

The QR codes, e-books, and the IndieCommerce site all work synergistically, Norcross said. “I feel the better we get at blurring the lines between our physical store and our websites the faster we’ll see our website traffic and purchasing grow.”

And, he added, the QR code lends itself to marketing beyond e-books. “My mind has been spinning about ways to use it as a promotional tool: on an event poster it could direct the customer to a YouTube invitation from the author; in store, for book trivia customers could scan to get the answer (an answer that would be posted on our website with a book recommendation, perhaps); in the poetry section, they could link to an audio of a poem reading; when we give books talks to groups, we could give out bookmarks with the codes that would link to a page with the discussed books on it; and on and on.”

For more e-book marketing ideas, click here.