How To Beat Amazon At Their Own Game: The Harvard Book Store Example

An article in Forbes (reposted in Boing Boing) lauds Harvard Book Store's owner Jeff Mayersohn, a former technology executive, who became the owner in 2009. Mayersohn has since then changed the bookstore creating a model that creates a unique experience that levels the playing field between local bookstore and retail giant Amazon.

Imagine for a moment what it would feel like if people walked into your company and used the lobby to call your competitors and buy their products. That’s standard consumer behavior in a bookstore. People browse, find a book they like, pull out their smart phone, and order online.
Making an intuitive leap, Jeff wondered if the opposite could be true? Maybe access to the vast universe of digital content could also save the bookstore. Maybe the bookstore, while limited in inventory, could evolve in the digital world and become a destination where people had access to every digitized book ever published.

The highlight, of course, is their Expresso Book Machine, which prints books on the spot, on demand. (Politics & Prose here DC also has one). But looking into Harvard Book Store, there's plenty at play to create a satisfying shopping experience:

I spent five years working in a bookstore. The key to great customer service, and a great bookstore experience is: get the book in the customer's hand. If the customer leaves the store with at least one book (even if it wasn't the one they were looking for), it will most likely be a good experience. (Think of it this way: no one ever leaves a bookstore empty-handed with a smile!)

Harvard Book Store does this in several ways, not only through the Expresso Book Machine, but through it's rare book catalog, its knowledgeable staff, and its unique bike delivery (not to mention it's also possible to order long distance online).

Of course, Amazon has got nothing to fear, but that’s not the point. Harvard Book Store defended their market and they did it by leveling the playing field with a giant. You shop there because it’s the most effective and satisfying experience.
Ultimately the bookstore exists to serve a community, and Jeff devised a strategy to safeguard that mission. While people will always take the path of least resistance to buy a book, they still value the experience of browsing and spending time in a place that ignites their imagination. That’s the position that Harvard Book Store has defended.

Kudos to Harvard Book Store! Now other bookstores: make your mark!

No comments:

Post a Comment