Between the lines branding

April 30, 2013

Brand experiences are subtle but ingrained into bookstores. Floor layouts, and lighting, customer engagement and even the checkout process are opportunities to build an engaging atmosphere between the store and the consumer. Some like to beat customers over the head with branded experiences, while others take a more balanced approach.

Store layouts can provide a guided tour of all a store has to offer, even if those offers are commodities, akin to when you go to Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million or Hastings. They all provide the same books, give or take a shelf’s worth, but each provides a distinct experience and placement of genres within the stores.

My bookstore experiences tend to consist of a few rooms in a renovated house, stacked floor to ceiling and wall to wall of books, tomes and collected tales. The stores pack more books than I could ever read in two lifetimes and the offerings change daily.

That’s not to say that the Barnes & Nobles or Books A Million environments aren’t fantastic, their focus is on more recent works than I tend to peruse. That and I was a Borders enthusiast before they imploded.

Then there are the employees, ranging from uber-helpful, ever-present helpers, to the silent ninjas who vanish when you actually have a question or need help. Some brands focus on customer engagement.

I’ve perused bookstores both big and small where I only see an employee when I get up to the register with a weighty stack of reading material. Very few bookstores I’ve gone to engage consumers, short of those who go the help desk or seek an employee out to ask a question.

Personally, this low-key style works for me as I rarely go to a bookstore with a specific book or author in mind. I’m one of those lackadaisical readers who find books by the shiny covers, interesting teasers and whether or not I can read the font size without getting a migraine. I don’t need a human shadow asking me if I’m finding everything I need, at least not when it comes to books.

I have had cashiers though comment on books I purchase, either recommending them or the author, providing ideas for similar books to keep in mind. This subtler method of customer engagement is more effective, less intrusive, and entices me to come back again so I can track down more books to add atop my reading pile.

For me, it’s all about the stores focusing on the road less travelled, or in this case the book less read. Sure, I may pick up a best seller from time to time, but I’m appreciative when the cashier recommends some lesser known follow-up reads or better alternatives to what’s caught my eye.

What are your most notable experiences and preferences?

What places do it right? Which ones fall short of your expectations and needs?

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