Related link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com
Yesterday, I posted a short entry about how cell-phone cameras are causing a stir in Japan. I thought a lot about it over the past 24 hours and realized that we really are just at the tip of the technological vortex– Larry Ellison may have been right when he said “The Internet Changes Everything” but he forgot to add “and then, once everything’s changed, it’s just gonna change again and again and again and again.”
(and spare me the “Duh!” comments. I’ve been heads-down at a startup for the past three years and am just getting back in touch with all the changes in the world).
With those thoughts rumbling around in my head, I went to a Barnes and Noble yesterday, to pick up a copy of Elliotte Harold’s new book, Processing XML With Java and I noticed: Barnes and Noble is doing well. There were a lot of people in the store, people were buying books and browsing, and … I confirmed it later– Barnes and Noble is doing okay.
Another thing to notice: their prices haven’t gotten any lower.
How did they do this? Wasn’t the arrival of the internet, and the e-tailers, going to force brick-and-mortar retailers to become cut rate discounters, barely able to eke out a living? Wasn’t Barnes and Noble going to compete with Amazon primarily through its web store (a nice site, but not really competitive, imho. It just completely lacks any sense of style). I know, none of us really believe that now, and I know that everyone now claims that they were skeptical back in the heyday, but it’s still worth wondering: what is the impact (so far) of the web on more traditional marketing channels?
Here’s my answer: Barnes and Noble is a much more pleasant place to shop in. They guessed, and rightly so, that for a wide range of books, if I’m in their store, and I see a book that I want, I’m not going to think “let me check on the internet and see if I can save $3.50.” The trick for them is to get me into their store, and to get me into a good mood, where I’m inclined to browse and explore and buy.
The aisles are wider at Barnes and Noble these days. The floorplans are more spacious. There’s pleasant music in the background, a nice cafe on the second floor, and loads of comfy chairs in handy locations. There are people using it as an office (seriously; people are bringing their laptops, parking in a comfy chair, and grabbing a latte from the cafe before setting down to a couple of hours of work). There are people using it as a meeting place (for example, the Bay area Futurists frequently meets in a bookstore), it’s become a place to go and hang out, rather than just a place to buy books.
So why is Walmart as unfriendly as ever?