BookSense.com's New Inventory Upload Keeps Customers in Store

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Recently, BookSense.com announced a new functionality that will allow bookstores to upload their store's in-stock quantities of items to the BookSense.com database. For participating bookstores, BookSense.com's new inventory upload feature creates an "On Our Shelves Now" inventory status for any book that the store has in stock. As a result, the customer knows not only that a title is available, but also that it is actually in stock.

"It's a great, new feature," said Len Vlahos, director of BookSense.com. "It really goes a long way to solving a common problem of e-commerce retail sites: discerning between what is available and what is actually in the store."

Prior to the debut of the new capability, there were five different inventory status types in the BookSense.com database: Not Yet Published (this refers to any title not due for at least 10 weeks); Coming Soon; Pre-Order Now (this refers to any title due within the next 10 weeks); Out of Print; Special Order (the title is in print, but not stocked at Baker & Taylor or Ingram); and Usually Ships in 24 to 48 Hours (in stock at Baker & Taylor or Ingram).

When customers check a title description on BookSense.com or on a BookSense.com member store site, they are given an inventory status as to a title's availability. Now, for bookstores that choose to upload their inventory to the BookSense.com database on a daily basis, the status for all in-stock titles will read "On Our Shelves Now."

The inventory upload also gives a bookseller the option of putting the store inventory first in the fulfillment cascade. This means that any order containing books that are in the store's inventory will default to the store for fulfillment. If the store elects to put the wholesalers first in the cascade, the system will route orders as it currently does, targeting wholesalers as the first point in fulfillment.

The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina, has been using the inventory upload since May. "People can check [the Regulator Web site] before they come to the store and realize 'Oh, I can pick that up when I get there,'" said Regulator owner Tom Campbell. "Or, if they are ordering through the Web site, they will know we have it. What happens most often is, customers call us and ask us to hold [the title] for them."

Campbell plans on putting a computer kiosk in his store, which will run his Web site and allow patrons to check and see if a title is in stock or available to order. "You can look up a book here, you can order it on the site, or take [the order] to a member of the staff," he said.

Formerly, if a customer didn't find the title on the shelf, the customer would usually just leave the store. "A lot of times, customers won't even ask us if we have a book," Campbell explained. With the kiosk, the customer can check on the availability of the title and, if the book is not in stock, easily place a special order. "I think the computer will keep more orders with us," he said. "Also, a lot of people don't know about our Web site, so they can see it [with the kiosk]."

Campbell noted that the inventory upload process is uncomplicated. "It takes me two to three minutes per day -- toward the end of the day," he said. "It's very fast, and it is not an onerous task."

The new inventory upload capability can be used with any POS system, said BookSense.com's Vlahos. The only thing the bookseller needs is the ability to create a text file of on-hand quantities, including ISBN, quantity, and price.

The new feature -- which is optional for BookSense.com members -- is available to try for free between now and September 30. Starting in October, booksellers wishing to continue the service will be billed $100 per month.

For more information on the BookSense.com inventory upload feature, contact Len Vlahos at len@booksense.com or call (800) 637-0037, ext. 1215.