A book store is in the fine situation of communicating with customers and prospects about the advantages of the situation: time to read and to spend quality time with the family or yourself.
How bookstores can weather Covid 19, is to lean into e-commerce. More than having people get things shipped to their homes, this is an excellent time to build positive RELATIONSHIPS. While everyone else is leaning into the fear, a book store is in the fine situation of communicating with customers and prospects about the advantages of the situation: time to read and to spend quality time with the family or yourself.
Here are the things bookstores can do with their reading communities:
1) Remind parents of the great books they always wanted to share with their children. Books that take more than one sitting to read are ideal. Consider The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit or Harry Potter. Reach back to the treasures of early chapter books and YA to help parents use this time to create something special with their children. Use emotion and nostalgia to help them see that this time is a gift.
2) Build a promotion that has many layers:
- A contest to vote for the best childhood treasures they want to make sure they share with their kids. Each entry gets a discount code to order a book online.
- A promotion on the “favorite books to share/read aloud with your kids” that includes 10-20 of those titles at a discount. Buy XX or more and get free shipping.
- Invite an author or a expert to conduct a virtual book club for everyone reading those books or a selected title and promote it as a way to interact with a virtual book club from home. Make sure there is a way for attendees to ask questions online. Gather their emails and offer a discount on shipping when they order a minimum # of books or $ value.
- Promote all that you are doing with local media. Have them pick up on how a bookstore (chain) is leading the way in helping parents survive this quarantine and use it for a positive connection rather than using it to instigate fear. (that means you cannot also be promoting titles that are about stockpiling and doomsday preparation.)
3) Reach out to small businesses nearby and promote a multi-ship option. If it is a bakery, call it “Pies and Poetry” to promote the idea of a purchase from multiple stores that is shipped in one delivery at one fee. Create themes like “Books and Bubbles” to bundle books, spa products and chocolate — or even books and cleaning supplies. Or “The basics and books” to bundle paper goods, drinks, bread, or anything that could be considered “basics” and books. Combine your emails with other small companies to share delivery fees. You may find that you are creating a new business stream.
4) Many virtual online events is also how bookstores can weather Covid 19. Think about all markets. Self care early in the morning, children’s reading hours early in the day, education titles, cookbooks or business titles in the afternoon and fun entertaining titles (mysteries, non-fiction, sci-fi) in the evening. Each person who wishes to participate can for the price of the book. If they purchase the book from you, you will send a code to be a part of the events. Promote using extra time during this quarantine to improving their skills or unplugging from the scary media to find comfort in books.
5) This is a time to hold your company as a sanctuary against the rising fear. That the bookstores they love are welcoming and steady against the rising hysteria. Make sure your communication is soothing and positive. Just as pre-holiday promotions try to anchor messaging in tradition and family gifts, use this time to do the same. As you work to create new (FAST) plans that you can execute online, stay level-headed and help customers see that once this mania has settled down, you will continue to be the solid foundation of the communities you serve. Make your customers their own heroes. The ones who use their love of books as a way to stay grounded and productive while those around them are unsettled.
As you do these things, include a strong public relations component. Reach out to radio, tv and news medias who are DESPERATE to find a little happy and positive news in all this chaos. Make sure that they are pitching having your best representatives available for interviews. Then use social media to AMP UP those messages. Find a way for authors and others to carry the messages to their communities. Then your message can go across the globe.
Of course, how bookstores can weather Covid 19 is to already have a solid foundation. Not only do they need a loyal community, but also strong operations. To learn more about how to create fundamental practices for retail success, read Retail the Second-Oldest Profession. Sharpen your skills now to succeed after the economy “opens up.”