As I was deciding what to write about this week, I came upon an article from The Nation called The Amazon Effect. In it, Steve Wasserman explains the many ways that Amazon has successfully challenged and remade the book industry–from distribution to publishing to the very way we read books. Though the book industry and scrapbook industry have some pretty big differences, several lessons from the article are useful to scrapbook businesses.
1. Nearly one in four people on the planet are online and the Internet resists the limits of geography.
Every offline business needs some online presence. Start with an up to date, easy to navigate website. Your website should include your hours, contact information, a visual of what your store offers at a minimum. Make it easy for visitors to sign-up for your electronic newsletter (this is not optional). Make this information easy to find.
2. Bookselling in the United States had always been less of a business than a calling.
Is your business a business, a calling, or a little bit of both? I think many people enter the industry as a calling rather than a business. If it’s a calling, you need to start treating it like a business if you want to remain in your calling.
3. The appeal of holding a physical book has diminished.
I am a paper scrapbooker. I might make one digital scrapbook a year – maybe – and that’s typically as a gift. For me, scrapbooking is a way to get off of the computer. That being said, the appeal of holding a physical scrapbook (whether made with paper or digital supplies) has diminished. People are less likely to print their photos anymore, let alone put them in some sort of scrapbook. Personally, I want physical scrapbooks, but fewer and fewer people do. How can the scrapbook industry adapt to this?
4. Chain stores can offer lower prices. Customers care more about price than whether the clerk “knows” the customer. Publishers need to prove their value to readers and authors.
As a customer, I need to know the value you are offering me. What is the value in me coming to a class at your store? What is the value of me coming into your store? What is your mission? What is your customer service mantra? Can you show me how to use different products? Why should I support your business? Make sure your customers know the value you offer them that they can’t get elsewhere.
5. Is selling competing goods worth it? Target stopped selling the Kindle because the Kindle includes a price checking app undermining Target.
Years ago, I visited a scrapbook store and they were selling pre-paid vouchers for Shutterfly books. Another store was promoting a direct selling digital scrapbook platform. Make sure the goods you are selling are not undermining you and your business. No, I don’t think paper-based scrapbook stores should ignore digital. But the point is that you need to carefully consider whether carrying a particular product furthers your mission or undermines it.
I realize that not all readers of Scrapbook Update are offline local scrapbook stores, but I think most readers would agree that offline local scrapbook stores are very important to the industry.
They help introduce the hobby to new scrapbookers.
They give scrapbookers a sense of identity as scrapbookers.
They provide a local community for scrapbookers.
Customers have adapted to Amazon’s method of consuming books. Now it’s up to non-Amazon book industry people (e.g., bookstores, publishers) to figure out where they fit. The scrapbook industry faces similar challenges.
Before I leave you today, I want to invite you to email me (stephaniemr at scrapbookupdate dot com) your questions about the business side of scrapbooking. Please use the subject line “Readers Questions.” Also, let me know your place in the industry (e.g., online store owner, designer, customer). I plan to answer your questions in future columns. And don’t worry, you will remain anonymous. Thanks!