In the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams, the mantra repeated throughout the film is, "If you build it, they will come." Not so with websites.
The success of a bookstore's website is directly dependent on the bookseller's efforts to market it, stressed Len Vlahos, BookSense.com director. "In some ways, a storefront retailer's website functions as an extension of the store, and, in other ways, as an additional location," Vlahos said. "However you look at it, a website is only as effective as the effort devoted to it -- content needs to be freshened, inquiries need to be responded to in a timely manner, and, perhaps most important, the site can only be successful if it's marketed to customers and potential customers."
Below is an updated, expanded list of best marketing practices, all of which will help booksellers make their websites a success. Booksellers should review the list and check all that apply to their current marketing efforts with a view toward implementing as many others as possible. (To download the "Website Marketing Checklist" in PDF format, click here).
- The store's URL (website address) appears on the front door and/or front window.
- There is signage throughout the store promoting the website.
- The store's URL appears on the cash register receipt.
- The store's URL appears on bags.
- The store's URL appears on bookmarks.
- The store's URL appears on your printed and/or electronic newsletter.
- The store's URL appears on gift cards and/or gift card backers.
- The store's URL appears on store letterhead, business cards, and in your e-mail signature.
- The store's voice mail/answering machine promotes the website, telling customers you are open 24 hours a day at www.yourwebaddress.com.
- A marketing piece specifically promoting the website is periodically stuffed in bags.
- Staff meetings to review the website are periodically held.
- Each member of the staff has made at least one purchase through the website in the past year.
- Each member of the staff is familiar with the website content; you have asked for their feedback.
- Staff members use the store's website -- and not a competitor's website -- to research titles in response to customer requests.
- The website's affiliate program has been enabled.
- Local authors, nonprofits, and other businesses are routinely asked to join the affiliate program.
- The affiliate program is promoted throughout the store.
- Your website is an affiliate of other websites (e.g., Levenger, etc.).
- Customer e-mail addresses are collected in-store and online, and you expressly ask for your customers' permission to communicate with them.
- An e-mail newsletter, including links to your website, is periodically distributed to your customers.
- The store and the website are cross-promoted, with in-store displays of online promotions.
- Website sales and buyer reports are routinely reviewed and analyzed.
- Website traffic reports are routinely requested, reviewed, and analyzed.
- Online pricing policies (including shipping fees charged to customers) are routinely reviewed and analyzed to ensure that you're providing the best value for the online shopping experience.
- Special online pricing (sales, discounted shipping) and/or limited run merchandise available only online (e.g., signed books) are routinely promoted through your newsletters.
- Book Sense Picks lists, and other promotional sales tools, are inserted in all orders shipped from the store.
- All available co-op, including newsletter co-op, is being claimed.