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Hints and Tips for Bookshops

If you're starting an online bookshop or taking an existing one online, you face some stiff competition. Amazon, WH Smith and bol.com are already well established and have invested huge amounts in their websites. You're unlikely to beat them head to head but, just as in the high street, you may be able build up a useful business if you cater to a niche market.

Organising your stock
You'll definitely need a database driven site to make it easy to add new books, change details and remove out of print items. This should allow visitors to browse your books by category or search for a specific topic, title or author. It will also form the basis of your shopping cart system to allow visitors to select books at leisure.

To help them choose, provide a cover picture and a good description for each book. This doesn't have to be the back cover blurb. You could write your own reviews indicating the information the book contains and maybe whether its aimed at beginners, intermediate enthusiasts or real experts. It's this kind of extra input that will single you out from your competitors.

Online reviews definitely help customers choose books so ask the publishers if they have any you can quote. You can also follow Amazon's example and invite customers to contribute their own reviews, although keep your eyes open for authors trying to play the system by posting good reviews of their books or destructive ones of their competitors.

Offering your expertise
Adding information to your site will attract visitors and build customer loyalty and, over time, you could create a more extensive research resource site with articles on your niche subject, author profiles, equipment reviews and links to other useful sites.

Adding other stock
Think carefully whether your niche market needs items other than books. For instance, people who read about fishing may want rods, waders and videos on fly casting. If you don't want to stock these items yourself, look out for other websites that do and suggest you help each other by swapping links or adverts.

Taking orders
Once your customers have decided to buy the books they've selected, make the payment process as simple as you can. Make sure they can see the delivery charges before they have to enter their credit card details and think carefully whether you really need them to choose a username and password. Most people are so swamped by passwords that they really don't want any more and may choose not to buy from you to avoid getting one.

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