Wi15: IndieCommerce Institute Offers Ideas and Inspiration for E-commerce

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At this year’s IndieCommerce Institute, held just ahead of the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute 15 in Baltimore, booksellers who use ABA’s e-commerce services had the opportunity to attend an interactive, classroom-style seminar that provided in-depth information about features that can help them make the most of IndieCommerce sites. The seminar also covered best practices for handling and processing online pre-orders, “store books,” and signed copies, and provided an overview of new features and coming attractions for IndieCommerce sites. 

Luis Correa of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia, told Bookselling This Week that the IndieCommerce Institute provided him with “a crash-course on some of the basics” of Drupal and IndieCommerce. Said Correa, “It gave me ideas about additions to my site I could implement on my own.” 

Zach Matelski of McLean & Eakin Bookstore in Petoskey, Michigan, said, “This was my first time at the IndieCommerce Institute, and within just a few minutes I had a notebook full of ideas to improve our website. I look forward to attending these in the future!”

Attendees were given a test site for the hands-on component of the seminar and to use over the next few months to continue to test out current and upcoming features. 

This year, the institute’s format changed from a full-day seminar to a half-day seminar to better address booksellers’ needs; the IndieCommerce team is looking for feedback and suggestions on how to further improve the IndieCommerce Institute for next year. 

Video recordings of the IndieCommerce Institute, which include live, step-by-step demos of all these features, are now on the Education Resources page on BookWeb.org. A BookWeb.org login is required; contact [email protected] for login credentials.

Here are some of the highlights from the sessions:

Building an IndieCommerce Site

  • Site building is the art of configuring a website, using the tools provided, to run at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. The IndieCommerce team addressed best practices for strong site building, including creating a new Content Type (Author) and adjusting its display settings, a Taxonomy Vocabulary (Genre) and View that displays authors, and a Page and a Block.

Best Practices: Processing Pre-Orders

  • Booksellers can create a custom pre-order status and a custom order update e-mail for customers. One thing booksellers can do to streamline the process is create a document with canned e-mail templates.
  • For multiple-book orders that include a pre-order title, booksellers can wait until all the books are available before shipping; ship the titles as available; or remove the pre-order from the original order and create a new order for the pre-order.
  • Booksellers should clearly communicate pre-order policies with customers. This can mean adding information about their shipping policy to their FAQ or Policy page on their IndieCommerce site. 

Best Practices: Promoting Online Pre-orders

  • Booksellers can market pre-order offers in their newsletter or on social media by including large, easy-to-read images of the titles being promoted and a “read more” link that brings customers back to their IndieCommerce site. 
  • On a title’s product page, booksellers can include a block that encourages customers to pre-order a signed first edition; pre-orders can also be added to a booklist page.
  • Booksellers should work with local authors to offer personalized copies or a drawing for swag for titles eligible for pre-order. 
  • Booksellers can look at ABA’s pre-order calendar to check out suggested pre-order titles. 

Best Practices: Store Books, Signed Copies, Pre-order Books

  • Store books are custom products that are different versions of print books unique to a given store, as they may be used, signed, or unique in other ways, making it easier for booksellers to sell them online.
  • Signed copies (coming soon) are new books signed by the author. These books will get a unique product page and description. Inventory for these books can be tracked separately, and they can have a unique product class that allows for custom shipping rules. A “signed copy badge” can be created for the book’s cover image.
  • Pre-order books feature (coming soon), which will offer a strategy for tracking pre-order sales differently from new books. They will not get their own product page. This feature will offer an option for books to be labeled “pre-order” in the cart; will create a different product class that will allow for unique shipping methods and other rules; and will create a unique SKU, which can help with sales reporting. 

New Features and Coming Attractions

  • Shipping Label Export Module: Booksellers will be able to use Stamps.com or other shipping services to create shipping labels; this is helpful when stores have many orders coming in at once. 
  • Bulk Upload of Store Pricing Rules by ISBN: Booksellers will see an option to add store pricing for multiple ISBNs on their IndieCommerce site, which includes the ability to bulk upload discounts and markups through a CSV file. 
  • Shipping Address Verification: Sometimes customers will purchase an item as a gift but use information from their own shipping address by accident. This feature warns admins that an address is incomplete or incorrect and suggests a better shipping address based on the information provided. 
  • User/E-mail Login: This feature allows booksellers to use either their e-mail or username to login to their IndieCommerce site. 
  • Shopping Cart Pop-up: When customers drop something into their cart, they will no longer be taken to a separate shopping cart page. 
  • Password Policy: Booksellers now must meet password requirements when creating a new password; passwords must contain characters of at least three different types; be at least nine characters in length; not match last three passwords; not contain the username.