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Ideas on how to optimise the website of a bookstore

Years ago before Tablets and iPad burst into the scene, most of us read real physical books. But with books available online and blogs publishing refreshing new articles, people have switched to the internet as the source of entertainment, information and interactive learning.

Many bookstores are now closing down- or seeing their profits soaring down and moving dangerously to the red. Most affected were the second hand bookstores, when in the past was popular because of their affordable books, is not unable to survive in the era when consumer have better choices.

Pay Less Books used to have a number of book stores scattered around Klang Valley when the popularity of second hand bookstore grew years back. The papers would report that they are expanding their outlets.

Then the next thing I knew, their stores started to close down one by one- now, the only way I am able to access to their books was via their warehouse sales.

It is the same for bookstores everywhere- and operating out of having warehouse sales and making announcement via emails and their website are cost effective alternatives than operating a brick and mortar store.

However, I do have a few suggestion on how Pay Less can further improve their online presence and help boost their sales. I’ve always believe that website is a very low cost, effective and great marketing tool that you can use to promote your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week be it rain or shine, Christmas or otherwise (where it is too expensive to pay people to work).

1. Website structure of http://www.paylessbooks.com.my/

Pay Less book’s website is very simple.  However, I noticed that the links are not clickable- because the content that you see “Pay Less Books, Read More for Less…..” and the content that follows consist of graphics, not words. Therefore, no clickable links and therefore, probably only people who had known about the store would know how to find it.

I’ve written previously that a company that a non clickable website  can stand to lose out a lot in their online outreach. Even for sites that are professionally developed using graphic navigation bars that does not tell the search engine what page it is, the outreach is limited. Most visitors would tend to arrive from search engines- where keyword searches typed in by visitors would led them to a site.  That is why, the site must contained searchable texts so that the search engines can find them. Or else, the site may end up losing visits to competitor or other non relevant sites.

2. Site design

The website contained a few pages and mainly promote itself through email marketing and Facebook.  I would think that Pay Less would have paid someone to develop using some simple programming as most older sites still carry that design.

However, today there are many ways to produce professional looking sites at a very low cost. In fact, one can easily set up a website structure using the WordPress platform. What’s best, with WordPress, you can set up a multiple structure site: using pages format and blog post format- the pages would display information such as About, Contact Us whereas the post would have a timestamp (now there are even plugins to remove the timestamp).  That makes it interesting for people to come back and visit for recent posts, as well for new visitors to know about your site.

3. Attracting visitors, spreading the brand name and keeping them

Pay Less would advertise its warehouse sales in email, Facebook and its website. It is a great approach and even my myself cannot help but help Pay Less promote about its warehouse sale in my other blog.  I do not remember seeing Pay Less doing any above the line advertising on its warehouse sale.

When you visit the site, you would first be prompted to sign up the newsletter to receive news about its warehouse sale- that is placed on top right below the banner.

However, I have a few humble recommendations- this may apply to other business sites that have few content page and some may exists just to put the company’s name online.

Capitalising on the company’s strength and higlighting them in the website.

One of Pay Less Books strength is that you can locate hard to find books in its archives.  I still think that no matter how much of information there can be all over the place, sometimes it still does not beat picking up a book and reading it. This is because in a book, information are presented in a systematic structure and in accordance to the author’s flow of thoughts. If you like the author’s sense of style, you get to systematically arrive from start to finish. Also, nowadays the internet are filled with people who called themselves ‘experts’ but may not have the necessary credentials. In order to become a published author, one must have good credentials and the author would have also invested months or even years at length to perfect the presentation and prepare the book manuscript.

And reading a book is not as straining to eyes as reading an ebook or surfing net.  Not to mention that a book does not give up radiation like a computer or TV screen does.

Therefore, Pay Less can do a weekly or monthly highlight of some of the books in its archive- perhaps a “Highlight of the Week” where a sort of book review is given about the book.  This can bring in more traffic from search engines (but one have to be patient as building up traffic takes time).

But it should also ensure that there are stocks available so that people can order it …..which brings me to my next point…

4. Online Bookstore

Since Pay Less book is having huge volumes of old and hard to find books, why not sell them on the site?  This requires an online shopping cart for selling the books. Pay Less can even choose to focus more for the Malaysian market.  Software like Zencart are free when come with certain hosting.

Else, if that is too much of trouble, it can register under eBay Malaysia to start selling its books online. That helps to clear the inventory and enable cash flow for new inventories. One would be surprised, many people are looking for older or obselete books that nobody may want- for strange and unknown reasons.

Reason why I write this article is because I could still see a lot of potential in Pay Less Books. Already the company is very creative when it comes to keeping costs down by online and social network marketing (which is free) and having warehouse sale instead of maintaining a physical shop with all its rent and staffing. However, as I believe in the effective power of a good website, I can’t help to feel that in some aspect, the web presence is still being underutilized.

Lastly, the company needs to have an effective inventory monitoring system to enable it to effectively track the in and outs of book inventory. It can help the company to identify what type of books that sells well and what doesn’t. There is no point of taking in books that absolutely no one wants anymore which would only take up precious space. To do inventory stocktakes are painful but once the system is set up, it is easy to tell an inquiring customer whether a book they want is in stock or not.

In the next post, I would write about another example of a well known book publisher and how it continues to captivate its popularity (nope, it’s not Amazon or Barnes & Noble).

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