Currently most of these stores have essentially the same structure. Customers come in, go through the various rows, browse the titles, and eventually either choose something or leave. In most instances the customers do not have any interaction with the sales staff unless they approach the cash register. The resulting experience is not very remarkable and lacks any differentiation from any other retailer in the same field. Honestly, I enjoy going to a traditional book store and browsing the various titles on sale. However, a retailer that is seeking to stand out and gain market share should consider a different strategy and aim to deliver a notable and different experience.
I would suggest a store with the following characteristics that could target Gen X, Millenials and teenagers:
- Concierge Desk - I am a big fan of having a concierge desk where the customer could check in and register upon entering the store. It is still uncommon in current store designs, making it a differentiating feature, and it allows the retailer to instantly start the conversation with the customer. Done well it results in better sales presentations, better customer service and ultimately increased sales.
- Personal Associate - The customers would be introduced to their personal associate, who would help them in their search.
- Tall tables and stools - The store design would be clean, without any rows of books or CDs or DVDs, or games. It would look more like a modern minimalistic lounge. There would be a number of tall small tables with 3 or 4 stools per table. Each table would have a work station/terminal. The sales associate would walk the customer to one of the tables where the customers could sit. The associate would sit with them and enquire on their tastes. Based on the answers, he/she would pull up a selection of books, albums, movies or video games that could interest the customers. Then the customers could read a few excerpts from each book, listen to some of the tracks in the CDs, watch the trailers of the movies or play the first level of each video game. The associates would come back periodically to help in the selection process.
- Coffee Shop - The back of the store could include a coffee shop, where patrons could purchase coffee as well as other beverages. This would promote a relaxing atmosphere and add another revenue stream to the store.
- Check out - The customers would be able to make their selection directly on their terminals as well as pay for their purchase with their credit cards. Their order would then be transmitted to a terminal in the store's basement, where all the actual products would be stored. This would also effectively reduce the rental costs of the store, as their prime retail square footage would be reduced. An associate would retrieve the product and send it to the check out desk via a small elevator/lift (Nike uses the same system in their New York store). The customers would pick up their purchases at the check out desk and finalize the payment if they decided to pay with cash.