How Independent Book Store Product Managers Survive In The Age Of Amazon

Bookstores can not only survive, but they can thrive in the age of Amazon
Bookstores can not only survive, but they can thrive in the age of Amazon
Image Credit: Peretz Partensky

If there is one job that most product managers would not want to have these days, it would to be a product manager for an independent book store. I mean really, Amazon showed up several decades ago and pretty much put these guys out of business. Customers have become used to browsing for books on their computer and then pressing a button and either having a book show up in the mail the next day or having a Kindle electronic book instantly downloaded. Who needs to go out to a book store anymore? However, independent bookstores are still in business and it’s because of what their product managers have done that they are still around.

Dealing With The Problem Of Amazon

Back in the 1990’s things were not looking good for independent bookstores. These stores that had always faced a great deal of pressure from the large book seller chains were now facing additional pressure from the arrival of Amazon. Many of these stores went into debt and were on the edge of closing their doors. However, since then, they have changed their product development definition. Independent bookstores are starting to make a comeback and this can look good on a product manager resume. The number of stores has risen from 1,651 to 2,470 recently. In order to save themselves, these stores have had to make some significant changes.

As an example, one independent bookstore has added author events which brought in more money and increased its storefront operation. This bookstore also focused on its events and its bookstore selections in order to reflect the interests of the store’s owner. The result has been a personal touch that has resonated with many customers in this age of online shopping. The thinking is that we are living in an age of facelessness e-commerce that has created a sense of nostalgia in people for what they remember: real stores where they could buy real products from people that they could have conversations with.

One of the things that has helped the independent booksellers to rebound is that the large book chains have fallen on hard times. In order to save themselves, the independent bookstore product managers have had to find ways to leverage their opportunities and rethink how they go about making money. There are several reasons that these bookstores have not gone out of business. One is that the back-office technology that they need to run their operations has become much cheaper. The product managers have also mastered the art of using social media to promote their stores. Finally, the independent bookseller product managers have been able to wrangle more favorable distribution terms from publishers.

How Independent Booksellers Are Going To Be Successful In The Future

One of the keys to the new success of the independent booksellers is their ability to offer their customers book curation. It turns out that customers appear to be willing to pay a higher price for books that somebody else has carefully selected from the mass of options just for them. Another way that the independent bookstores have survived is by creating their own distinctive flavor. These flavors can range from specializing in literary fiction to books on Winston Churchill to books with a particular political slant.

Independent bookstores can offer their customers customized services. These can include such things as sending customers books based on their personal reading preferences. The costs of running an independent bookstore include the cost of goods sold (books), salaries, rent, licenses, and other expenses. Although operating an independent bookstore is not a good way to make a lot of money, these stores can have a great deal of influence. One major way that independent bookstores can make money is by hosting author events where they sell books to the attendees and get to keep all of the proceeds.

Since hosting author events is so lucrative, independent booksellers have become very good at doing it. The product managers will purchase books to be sold at these events at the usual 46% off of the cover price and then during the event they will sell them at the full cover price. When these events are held, the independent bookseller product managers attempt to host them at free venues. The ticket price that they charge is the cost of the book plus sales tax and the customer gets a copy of the book. If a venue has to be rented, then the price of attending is higher in order to cover the rental costs. The end result of this is that the independent booksellers are able to keep 75% of the profits from these events after covering all costs.

What All Of This Means For You

It was only a few years ago that just about everyone thought that the independent booksellers were almost out of business. What the big box book stores had not already done, the arrival of Amazon promised to do – finish them off. However, things have changed since those days. Thanks to actions by the independent bookstore product managers who took a look at their product manager job description, things have turned around.

The number of independent bookstores has been increasing in the past few years. In order survive, these stores have had to make some significant changes to how they run their business. These stores have started hosting author events and offering their customers the personal touch when selecting books. This seems to be in contrast to the facelessness of e-commerce. The fact that the big box chains have run into financial troubles has helped along with decreases in the cost of the back office systems that independent booksellers need to run their stores. Independent bookstores are able to offer their customers customized services. One of the key ways the independent bookstores have been able to stay in business is by hosting author events and selling books at them.

In order to remain in business the independent bookstore product managers had to understand that the way that they had been doing business was not going to work anymore. What they have done is look for ways to customize the services that they can provide to their customers in order to differentiate themselves from the large stores and the online giants like Amazon. What they are doing seems to be working. Perhaps in our era of online everything, the human touch is what our customers are still going to be willing to pay for.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How do you think that an independent bookseller could distinguish themselves from Amazon?

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