Tue, 15 Jan 2002

Create chic atmosphere not sealed books

Roy Goni, RKS Management, Senior Partner

Like reading, buying books can now be done anywhere. Until recently, bookshops in Indonesia had been the reference place for book hunters or avid readers.

Like the number of bookshops themselves, book readers are a limited and segmented community here, even more so when we refer to readers of imported books.

Though the market segment of imported books is very limited, it does not mean that this market is not growing.

The gradual growth in the demand for imported books has led the establishment of a number of bookshops that specifically sell "atmosphere", like QB, opened in June 1999 and (ak.sa.ra), established slightly later in February 2000.

They have radically changed the conservative image normally connected with conventional bookshops, which only sell books but do not allow their customers to leaf through them as they are wrapped and sealed in plastic packaging.

What both QB and (ak.sa.ra) are offering is actually identical to the concept implemented by Borders in the United States. The success story of Borders - making them one of the retail companies to be listed in Fortune 500 in 2001 - is due to the way they sell "atmosphere" - atmospherics marketing - by repackaging a bookshop with a cafe.

The cafe functions as a place for customers to unwind, as they can enjoy the contents of a book over a cup of coffee. As the ex- manager of Borders in Pittsburg and Singapore, Matthew Coyne, put it: "We sell a heck of a lot of coffee!"

The presence of newcomers, like QB, who are selling "atmosphere", has not only changed the conservative image of bookshops, but has also opened up a new niche of imported book hunters, albeit small in number when compared to Singapore's.

However, with its gradual growth, it looms as a potential market.

Actually there are valuable lessons to be learned from the way amazon.com markets books. Amazon.com has apparently stunned the book industry with the kind of presence that has invigorated the industry on a worldwide scale.

We might know much about amazon.com, but we have not properly studied how they apply "simplicity marketing" as a strategy to sell their books.

What amazon.com has achieved is a harmonious integration of the four elements of simplicity marketing: Replace, Repackage, Reposition and Replenish.

The first lesson is that customers should enjoy every convenience in getting the books they want, including "out-of- print" books.

The price and the time of arrival of those books can also be predicted. Customers are given another convenient facility, the One-Click-Order, which not only applies to ordering for books, but also for CDs and video-cassettes.

The second lesson is the large variety of books on offer, not just the bestsellers but quite a wide range, hence making it true one-stop-shopping. This way it saves the customers a lot of time.

Recommendations on books are also given, based on the customers' interests. This certainly requires a complete customer-preference database management system.

The third lesson that can be derived is to create the most suitable positioning according to the desired characteristics of the bookshop.

Every positioning theme should be reflected in every activity of its marketing so as not to create any bias.

The fourth lesson is to ensure the complete absence of defective products and services along with competitive prices.

With the application of simplicity marketing a la amazon.com, a conservative bookshop will transform itself into a cozy place where the stresses of daily chores are erased.