Can bookshops like Foyles benefit from digital in-store?

The legendary Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road in London recently shuffled along the street once more and re-opened with a bang.

It’s an amazing store with clean lines and ordered stock, a world away from images of a rather cluttered 1930s Foyles such as this one.

I headed in to check out the in-store experience and to assess whether bookshops can benefit from digital in-store (leaving the e-book argument in the long grass).

Chiefly, I tested Foyles’ free wi-fi, which features an inventory search and mapping tool.

How online book shops can harness the power of social proof

For the true bibliophile, the book shop is one of the few retail experiences impossible to replicate online.

Yes, there are hundreds of extremely competitive ecommerce sites that offer cheaper-than-high-street books with free delivery, but what they’re missing is the sensory experience of browsing a book shop’s shelves; the touch, the smell and most importantly, the conversation.

I spent seven years working as a bookseller, and as my learned colleague Ben Davis will agree: once a bookseller, always a bookseller. It’s impossible not to shoehorn one’s innate love of books into most conversations. 

Part of the joy of working with books is the interaction with the customers. It was extraordinarily easy to load up a customer with armfuls of recommendations when all they came into purchase was the latest Maeve Binchy. 

This is where online book stores can match the offline experience: Conversation, interaction and engagement, all through the art of social proof.

I’ve previously gone into greater detail about social proof here: Whitbread and the power of social proof; this post mainly concentrated on the food, drink and leisure services as well as describing how social proofing works. 

Here I’m going to use the examples discussed in that post and the examples in our 11 great ways to use social proof in ecommerce article to see how online book shops compare.