August 11

Fifty percent of the U.S. book market is controlled by Amazon, while Barnes & Noble has 8%. This book market share split shows that shoppers value convenience and price more than customer service. Anyone that says retail can be helped, saved, or fixed by concentrating on anything but convenience and price is wrong.

For example, an HFN columnist whom I won’t name is often extolling the need to make the in-store shopping experience fun and interesting. Similarly, a market building president recently praised Macy’s purchase of Story, a retailer known for themed in-store experiences. These people are both misguided. This strategy is not the best use of a retailer’s resources.

Retailers should be investing first and foremost in solutions (often tech based) that make ordering and returning goods easy, and that ensure the customer is getting the same or better deal as he/she would on Amazon. Because ask yourself: would you buy from the store with the cheaper price and next day delivery, or the store with more expensive prices and delivery in 7-10 days? On top of that, many retailers' website are old and don't display an expected delivery date--which is even worse than a week wait. You don’t care if the store’s staff knows Jane Austin’s birthday. You don’t care that the store has a ‘travel’ theme this month if you want to order a travel phone charger at 6:30 pm but the store closed at 6 pm. This is why Barnes & Noble's share of the market shrunk to 8% and Amazon's expanded to 50%.

We need to properly prioritize investment strategies in our industry—and we likely need new leadership that understands these priorities. In support of this call to action, Barnes & Noble just got new leadership. (It was bought by a U.K. bookstore chain.) I believe that two changes are needed in many of our businesses:
1. We need to concentrate on convenience and pricing.
2. We need fresh leadership. That person that drags their feet on tech? That person needs to join Borders bookstore and be gone. Keeping laggards around just helps Amazon and your competitors.