Preparing for the 4th Quarter: What to Know and What to Do (Part II)

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Here, ABA CEO Allison Hill offers a new round of information on challenges booksellers may face heading into the 4th quarter as well as actions they can take to prepare for an uncertain holiday season.

The September 2 issue of Bookselling this Week included Part I of an ongoing series on “Preparing for the 4th Quarter: What to Know and What to Do.” As I mentioned then, the uncertainty of the last six months has come to a head and many stores find themselves on precarious ground going into this critical 4th quarter. ABA continues to work on ways to mitigate risks and help stores plan and prepare for a successful season. Here’s Part II of things to think about as we enter the 4th quarter:


What to Know:

Searches for “local bookstore,” “small business,” and “local business” are trending. Will new customers find you?

What to Do:

  • Make sure local listings on Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, and online YellowPages are updated, accurate, and consistent. (For example, if you use “St.” on one, use “St.” on all, as consistency helps with a higher ranking in searches.) Include photos when possible.
  • Improve your search engine optimization (SEO) to increase your chances of new customers finding you. SEO is the process of optimizing your online content so that a search engine likes to show it as a top result for searches of a certain keyword. Learn about how to optimize searches for your store; IndieCommerce sites can find additional tips/steps on BookWeb.
  • Add your store to Google Maps.
  • Make sure your operating status is front and center on your website. As soon as someone comes to your website, they should be able to see if you’re open and in what capacity. (Ask someone unfamiliar with your site to take a look. You may think this information is obvious, but in a quick look at 20 random bookstore websites, this information was not clear.)
  • Thanking people for supporting your store during this time and saying a little bit about the challenges you’re facing will remind people that you need their support.
  • ABA just completed a check of all IndieBound links, but double-check your link and contact us if there’s a problem.


What to Know:

It’s critical that the momentum gained these last six months in our bookselling community’s commitment to diversity continues. IndieCommerce recently added a preferred name field for customers whose chosen or preferred name does not match their legal name. Enabling this field ensures that you are addressing your customers as they wish to be addressed. The preferred name option is also a way of respecting this component of an individual’s identity, acknowledging the importance of inclusive language, and signaling your store’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

What to Do:

Enable Preferred/Chosen Name on your IndieCommerce website. Continue to look for ways to support diversity, inclusivity, equity, and representation.


What to Know:

ABA has heard from Bookazine about several measures they're taking to help the indies this holiday season. Bookazine is ordering larger quantities of key new releases and increasing quantities for seasonal/regional catalogs and other core Q4 titles. They’re prioritizing receipt of hot-title inventory for rapid availability for ordering, increasing warehouse staffing and hours, and expanding ordering and customer service hours. They’ve already implemented stronger boxes to ensure that books aren’t damaged in transit and the Bookazine sales team is available to reserve inventory, provide real-time updates, and offer other inventory services.

What to Do:

It’s important to have accounts with more than one wholesaler going into Q4 in case of disruption in the supply chain. If you don’t already have an account with Bookazine, email Josh Harwood at Bookazine to set one up or to learn more about how Bookazine can help. (Check out Part I of this Q4 series for information about what Ingram is doing to prepare for Q4.)


What to Know:

ABA has a new affinity partnership with Crowdcast, a live video platform for webinars, Q&As, courses, concerts, and online conferences. ABA member booksellers will receive 20 percent off for 12 months on any of the plans that they choose when signing up for Crowdcast. Stores that are already on the platform can use the discount going forward; booksellers are encouraged to contact Crowdcast to apply the coupon to their account.

What to Do:

Booksellers can visit this page on BookWeb to access the special link or the discount code that will grant their store the discount (booksellers will need to be logged in to BookWeb to see these details).

Questions can be sent to [email protected] or through the Support Center chat feature when logged into Crowdcast.


What to Know:

Adding non-book/sidelines to your IndieCommerce site is one of the best moves you can make to increase dollars per transaction, increase sales, increase profitability, and meet the needs of — and add value for — your customers.

What to Do:

There are several options for adding non-book/sidelines to your indieCommerce site:

  • Enable Ingram’s “T” category, which includes 26,000 calendars, book-like bound items (such as blank books), and maps available through Ingram. This feature has been available on IndieCommerce sites for a while but is new to IndieLite. Enable Ingram’s “T” category by going to:

    • IndieCommerce: Store > Configuration > Account Information and Preferences > Configure Book Settings
    • IndieLite: Store > Configuration > Account Information and Preferences > Store Preferences.
  • Enable Ingram’s “M” category, where stores will be able to see 25,000 available gifts and games later this week. Enable Ingram’s “M” category by going to:

    • IndieCommerce: Store > Configuration > Account Information and Preferences > Configure Book Settings
    • IndieLite: Store > Configuration > Account Information and Preferences > Store Preferences.
  • Prepare custom products for Local Store Inventory (LSI). In the next few weeks, LSI will be available for non-book/sidelines on IndieCommerce sites. This will make on-hand quantities, price, and store section visible for non-book/sidelines through the same file/process stores use for books. You can prepare now by:

    • Reviewing the SKUs for custom products already on your website to ensure that they match what’s in your POS system. (For LSI to work, the SKUs have to match.)
    • Adding additional non-book/sidelines either manually or via bulk upload. (If you don’t want certain products to be visible on the site before LSI is ready, you can create them and leave them “unpublished” so customers can’t see them.)
  • Consider using the new image bulk upload feature if you have a large number of non-book products to add. (This feature is only useful if stores have a very large number of images to upload — 100 or more.)

    • Start gathering images for your non-book/sideline inventory.
    • Watch for details in the next week or two on how to send IndieCommerce a .ZIP file with images for large quantities of nonbook/sidelines. (To use this feature, the images in the .ZIP file must have the same name as the SKU of the product. For example, if the product SKU is “TSHIRT123,” the image should be named “TSHIRT123.jpg.” We will accept JPEG [.jpg] and PNG images [.png].)
    • Note: You can edit products now and upload images one by one — this has always been possible and these new features don’t change anything about that process.
  • Plan to attend the upcoming webinar “Sidelines and Non-Book: How to Create, Sell, and Manage Stock” on Wednesday, October 14, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET.  We’ll cover all these features and more!


What to Know:

Thinking of your job as asset management may offer you a fresh perspective on your business.

What to Do:

Think beyond you stores’ balance sheet assets. Think of other “assets” or strengths your store has that you need to be protecting and may be under-utilizing:

  • Staff. One of the most important assets in your business is your staff. How are you protecting them? How are you supporting them? How are you utilizing them? They know things about your business that even you don’t know; ask them what they need to do their best job and what they think you should be doing to prepare for Q4. 
  • Community. Investing in conversations with community influencers, city hall, your local paper, and key customers now about what your store needs for Q4 in terms of support will help ensure that the community is talking about your store and looking for ways to support you during this critical period.
  • Your physical storefront. Your storefront is a billboard. Instagram-worthy signage, murals, and decor increase your stores’ aesthetic intelligence, increase customer engagement, and generate publicity. Even if you’re not open to the public. (Your store’s social media is a digital billboard in the same way.)
  • What else? What relationships do you have that you could capitalize on right now with press, authors, or your community? What skills do people on your team have that could be put to use right now in new ways? Would your customers like to connect in new ways like a store customer Facebook page for your most loyal fans? Maybe hosted by one of your customers? This could be a great topic to bring up at an upcoming ABA Coffee Break.


What to Know:

One of the best ways to improve your order fulfillment workflow is by using a shipping solution. Many options are free and some are integrated with IndieCommerce.

What to Do:

  • Attend the Technology Meetup on October 8 at 1:00 p.m. ET: This session will feature booksellers sharing about shipping platforms/software they are using, what their process is, and useful tips. Guest speakers include: Suzanna Hermans, Oblong Books; Alison Gwinn, Changing Hands; and Kathy Burnette, Brain Lair Books. Takeaways from this meetup will be included in a BTW article on October 14.
  • Grab a few tips from the recent Technology Meetup on “New Ways of Doing Business.”


What to Know:  E-commerce demand is anticipated to rise to unprecedented levels in the next few months. Now is the time to prepare your e-commerce site.

What to Do: Attend (or watch afterwards) one of the many IndieCommerce and IndieLite webinars scheduled for the coming weeks:

  • IndieCommerce 101: How to Get Your New IndieCommerce Site Ready for Launch. Wednesday, September 23, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

You just got your IndieCommerce site and you want to be available to your customers for the holidays, but you’re not sure where to start. Sound familiar? We’ll take a look at some of the first steps toward getting your site up and running in time for the season. Register now.

  • IndieLite 101: How to Get Your New IndieLite Site Ready for Launch Wednesday, September 30, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

New to IndieLite or just don’t know where to start? Join us to learn easy steps and best practices on how you can prepare your site for the holiday season. Register now.

  • Sidelines and Non-Book: How to Create, Sell, and Manage Stock (IndieCommerce only) Wednesday, October 14, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

Get up to speed on the latest features and strategies for selling sidelines and other non-book inventory on your website. We'll cover an easy-to-use feature that adds tens of thousands of gift and game products from Ingram, how to bulk upload your own unique products, and how to integrate non-book products with LSI, so you can combine stock and pricing updates for books and sidelines in a single upload from your POS system. Register now.

  • Order Processing 201: Advanced Tools and Guidelines for Managing Online Orders in Bulk Monday, October 12, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

Learn about the latest advanced tools available for processing your online orders in bulk. In this webinar, we will cover bulk order processing, printing invoices in bulk, exporting to shipping solutions, exporting to POS systems, and generating custom sales reports. These new features will save your staff time and keep your customers satisfied. Register now.

  • How to Use Your Website for Holiday Marketing, Gift Guides, and Wish Lists Monday, October 19, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

This webinar will cover some tools and features on your IndieCommerce or IndieLite site to enhance your marketing this upcoming holiday season.  Highlights include: utilizing reports on your site, creating a holiday gift guide and maximizing wish lists, and other key tools available to assist in Q4 preparation. This webinar will provide practical tips and actionable takeaways for both IndieCommerce and IndieLite sites. Register now.

  • How to Use Your Website for Institutional Business with Schools and Nonprofits Wednesday, October 21, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

Learn how you can work with schools or non-profit organizations utilizing your website! We will be joined by bookseller panelists who have strategically built these relationships, and they will discuss the various features and approaches a store can use to cooperate with these institutions. Our panelists will share their experiences and methods while the IndieCommerce team will demonstrate how these features can be set up, while also giving our own tips and tricks. Register now.


What to Know:

ABA’s Q4 prep educational series is designed to help stores prepare for Q4.

What to Do:

Attend one of the webinars (watch for registration links in BTW), watch the recording (in ABA’s Education Resources), or read a summary of the key takeaways after each session (on the Top 10 BookWeb page).

  • Top 10 Things to Know About: Improving Operational Workflow (September 17 at 3:00 p.m. ET)
  • Top 10 Things to Know About: Leveraging Customer and Sales Data (October 1 at 3:00 p.m. ET)
  • Top 10 Things to Know About: Leveraging ABA’s Fall Marketing Campaign (October 8 at 3:00 p.m. ET)
  • Top 10 Things to Know About: Creating Safe and Profitable Virtual Events (October 15 at 3:00 p.m. ET)
  • Top 10 Things to Know About: Keeping Calm and Carrying On (in a World of Face Masks, Hand Sanitizer, Race Relations, and Election Tensions) (October 22 at 3:00 p.m. ET)