Dad was an obsessive reader. In part, because he didn’t often have access to TV back in the day. And, being in the military he was often doing shift work or working in isolated territory.  So, books were an easy friend to carry every where.

He was never without a book. There would be books in the glove compartment of our blue and white Chevy station wagon. Books tucked into the side of a chair in the living room. On the bedstand, in his pocket for the ride to work on the bus.   

He read almost anything: science fiction, fiction, westerns, humour…anything (except WWII)  was a topic for him.   He bought used books, visited the library, loved garage and church rummage sales where there were book tables, and had a lifelong dream to run a used bookstore when he left the army.

I can imagine him doing it.

He loved reading. He read Louis L’Amour to me when I was a baby and wouldn’t sleep.

Dad died before Chapters opened in 1994.  I’ll confess this might sound a little silly all these years later, but….the very first time I went into a Chapters felt like crying because he would have enjoyed it so much.

Now, this can be hard to imagine

When I worked in a small independent bookstore as a teen, people didn’t stand or sit around checking out a book before they bought it. There wasn’t food or coffee allowed.  And we closed at 5:30 PM.  It was normal. It was what we knew.

But then, along comes Chapters introducing a new customer experience. Paradigms shifted.

People could enjoy being in bookstores to browse and explore books before buying them. With Chapters came the coffee shop with gourmet coffee and treats to munch. Chairs and sofas to sit on. Bookstores started staying open late. A complete shift that became mainstream.

And while Chapters isn’t for everyone, it’s purpose is to attract their favorite consumer.  The booklover.

Everything is planned with purpose

Today, take a walk through your favorite bookstore and notice the layout.  Top sellers (those are in prime line of vision) are paying for the coveted space (at least in the big superstores).  Books displayed on the ends of the bookshelves also pay for that space.  Upcoming authors and their publishers will pay for table space.

Every publisher is competing with another to attract the consumer’s eye.  You can check this for yourself.

Compare different versions of the same book – say, a classic like War and Peace.  There’s more than one version. What influences the consumer who buys it? Is it the translation, the price, the pages, the cover, the quality of the binding?

Your website is the ‘book’ and your homepage is the ‘cover’

The book cover can attract the consumer the second they see it. Or it can cause them to glance right by without noticing it. Consumers notice things they find attractive.  This is why book illustration and cover design are so important in a bookstore.

Your website is like a miniature bookstore. It can be the only connection you have with your consumer. Given that, ask yourself:

  • What does my consumer see? 
  • Whom am I trying to attract?  
  • What is my website’s purpose?

Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” – Leo Burnett

Chapters has a vibe and it’s part of their brand. It pulls in its consumers. What’s your vibe, your brand? Does your website match your vibe?  Does it pull in your consumers?

When a consumer walks into Chapters, the consumer knows what to expect. Is this the same for your consumer?  If they are looking at your website, does it ‘feel’ consistent?

If you’re unable to produce a cohesive website, you increase the of your consumer clicking away.  The competition is strong out there and it’s easy for a consumer to go to another website in a heartbeat.  

3C’s – basics to begin

  1. Clarity: Your website needs to reassure the consumer they are in the right place. To do that your website needs to be relevant to the consumer.  Avoid trying to trick a consumer into checking out your website by using clickbait (that’s not a good idea). The consumer needs to trust you from the second they click on your website. Build that trust by being authentic and honest.
  2. Current:  Nothing is sadder than sun damaged yellowed books in a dusty store window.  It shows neglect.  When a consumer visits your website, it needs to be contemporary and fresh.  A neglected website may suggest (even unconsciously) that you’re out of touch or indifferent to your consumer. Create yourself a calendar to update, or at least review, you website on a regular basis.
  3. Categories:  The bookstore has maps and subject areas identified. Then, books are often arranged by author so the consumer can more easily locate what they want.  Your website is friendly to your consumer when it’s easy to navigate.  Do your best to use common language for your categories. Have your pages clearly identified.  While it’s tempting to be cute or witty, be careful.  Always think of your consumer and what they want to find. Remember, you only have a few seconds to engage.

Finally, remember your consumer’s experience

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Bookstores are concrete experiences. The atmosphere, the staffing, the music and the vibe are part of the experience.

Your website is an abstract experience for your consumer.  Who knows what time of day it is, or where they are.

Your website needs to offer your consumer an emotionally satisfying experience while providing the information they’re searching for.  

How can you do this? 

Start with the basics and follow the 3C’s (clarity, current, categories), watch the impact of data on load times, and offer what you do.

I’ll mention that again – offer what you do.

Build your website content with care. Make it so inviting that your consumer lingers on your website, just the same way dad would linger in a bookstore.  The longer he lingered, the more he found.