Selling eBooks in-Store: One Indie Tells Us How

In January, ABA posted an article that featured two booksellers who were finding creative ways of promoting their websites in-store using QR-codes, the matrix barcodes that are scanable with any barcode reader or camera phone. After two months of using the codes, we got in touch with the folks at McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan to hear how they were working out.

Co-owners Matt and Jessilynn Norcross began by putting the codes on shelf-talkers so that customers could use their smart phones to scan the codes and link up to the store’s website. From there they have the option of buying eBooks from the store’s IndieCommerce site.

“The original intent came about because we saw that people would pull out their phones in the store,” said co-owner Jessilynn Norcross. “Our fear was that they were using our staff picks to buy the books elsewhere.”

Without discourage this browsing practice, Norcross wanted to be able to direct customers to their own e-Store. Along with the QR codes, shelf-talkers throughout the store include the message that McClean & Eakin eBook prices are aligned with the agency model prices. In other words, their eBooks are the same price as anywhere else.

“It’s a subtle way of reminding customers that we’re online and they can buy their eBooks locally from us.”

But the shelf talkers were just the start for Norcross.

“The shelf talkers are a subtle reminder for people when they’re in the store, but we wanted a way for people to link to our website when they’re away from the store,” said Norcross. “So we put them on event posters and fliers. That way when people see them around town they can scan the codes with their phones and go directly to our website.”

Norcross said they began embracing new technology as a way to reassure customers that, although they’re an independent bookshop, they’re fully in the digital age.

“We can do what the big boys can do,” Norcross said. “We may be old fashion but we’re still tech savv.”

After two months of using the codes, I wanted to hear whether they were helping to increase traffic to the store’s website.

“It’s hard to say,” said Norcross, “but our gut tells us that it is.”

I’d be curious to hear from anyone who’s come across and/or has used these QR-codes in store. Did you end up buying an eBook from that store’s site? Let me know what you think.

(Photo of shelf-talker from American Booksellers Association)

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4 comments
  1. Bobbi said:

    This is a great way for the ‘little guy’ to have that extra customer service that maybe you wouldn’t expect from a small business. Honestly, I see those codes a lot of places, but up until now, had no idea what they were used for. I knew you could scan them with your smart phone, but wasn’t sure why you would, lol. Thank you for enlightening me.

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