Home > From the tavern: Innovation stories and opinions > Observing, prototyping, associating: how bookshops fought innovation with innovation

Observing, prototyping, associating: how bookshops fought innovation with innovation

When Amazon’s disruptive innovation re-defined the book retailing business, traditional book retailers had a really hard time. A number of them went under and the others had to grit their teeth and dig deep to survive.

Some may have thought that it was the end of the road, that they could not compete with Amazon’s low-cost and limitless-choice. But some book retailers realised that what they could not do was simply to compete HEAD-ON with the new business model that Amazon had created. It did not mean that they could not compete at all and that the days of the highstreet book retailer were gone. What can we learn from the Waterstones, Borders, and others around the world?

Although I do buy on Amazon, I also enjoy the book retailing experience: I like browsing through real books in a quiet environment, even if the choice is more limited. I like to hold the books, feel them. Observing customers in a bookshop can be quite revealing: they spend long minutes standing in front of shelves browsing books. Do they enjoy standing? Probably not. What they enjoy is taking the time to browse. Put only a couple of armchairs in the bookshop  – a very cheap form of Rapid Prototyping – and you will soon see customers sitting and enjoy their book browsing even more. 

Next, you can consider what is the typical sitting experience that customers normally look for on a highstreet shopping trip. The answer is coffee shop or restaurant. Associating ideas – otherwise referred to as connecting the dots – some book retailer have realised they could leverage that customer experience, and in turn innovate to get themselves in a place where Amazon cannot compete head-on. They have partnered with coffee chains or even opened restaurants to create an ambiance and offer the customer an experience mix that – for now at least – is beyond Amazon’s reach.

Until the next innovation…

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