Wi15: IndieCommerce Institute Offers Ideas and Inspiration for E-commerce [4]

At this year’s IndieCommerce Institute, held just ahead of the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute 15 [6] 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 [7] 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 [8] 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 [9]. A BookWeb.org login is required; contact info@bookweb.org [10] 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 [11] 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.