the book depository

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.

Amazon relying on brand credibility instead of good usability

Amazon and The Book Depository logosIf ever a retailer could get away with having exceptional cross-selling
and up-selling functionality, yet provide a new visitor checkout
process and web forms that break many usability rules, Amazon is certainly one of them. On the other hand one of Amazon’s competitors, The Book
Depository, certainly appears to focus more on providing better
usability throughout the buying journey, especially for new customers.

Following the recent e-commerce training course I delivered for
Econsultancy, the usability benchmarking that is part of the course
threw up some really interesting market insights. Although many
retailers are featured in the course, providing examples of good and
bad e-tail usability and best practice, I purposely refrained from
including Amazon.