There is a huge demand for used books because it is easy to acquire cheap books that are still in good condition. It is therefore high time to develop an online bookstore because of the low-risk involved. However, there are three things to consider.
First, the existence of a reliable procurement team that can locate and procure quality used books at a low price. Secondly, there is a need for a reliable group of IT workers that that can develop and maintain a website. Finally, a group of workers that can help maintain a brick and mortar store as starting point for marketing and advertising.
The rapid change in technology has made it possible to establish an online business with minimum risks. The cost of creating an online presence is insignificant (Leo, 2009). The only thing needed to do is a plan and hard work. One of the more remarkable business ideas is to sell used books online.
According to one commentary, “Sellers of used books help build a better world by preserving and spreading knowledge … helps communities by conserving resources, reducing the waste going to landfills, and making books more affordable (Weber, year, p.7). It is therefore one of those businesses that enable the entrepreneur to make money and do something that is worthwhile. The following is a description of the integrated marketing plan that proves its viability.
The target market will be all the consumers of used books in the United States. The inspiration for creating an online used bookstore comes from the success of Amazon the biggest online seller of books, both new and used. In 2002 alone, the founder of Amazon acknowledged that fifteen percent of the orders in the quarter are for used products (Windwalker 2002, p.14).
According to one report, “Used book sales on the Internet jumped 33 percent in 2004 … now, one of every 12 books sold is a used book and two-thirds are purchased online with a total annual sales of $609 million (Weber, 2006, p.7). Even if it is relatively easy to establish an online business selling books there is enough opportunities to make it a worthwhile endeavor.
Target Market and Competition
This business anticipates serving the needs of all potential customers in the United States. The majority is composed of Caucasians around 80% of the population followed by African Americans, around 14% of the population. The rest of the target market is composed of Hispanics and Asians. The specific target market however is the group of consumers with income that are in the range of $50,000 to $100,000. The average age of the potential consumer is 33 years old.
The biggest competitor are established online sellers such as Amazon with a market share of 22.6% (Minzesheimer, 2011). The second largest is Barnes & Noble with a market share of 17.3% (Minzesheimer , 2011). This is followed by independent book sellers with a 6% share of the market and then Books-A-Million with a market share of 3% (Minzesheimer, 2011).
Borders used to be a dominant competitor but it has filed bankruptcy and all stores are closed. Based on these figures it is easy to ascertain that there is still a huge market for used books. Even if online businesses will sprout up overnight, there is still a market that demands for the availability of used books online.
Integrated Marketing Plan
There are several ways to look for and collect used book that can in turn be sold online. Procurement teams must look into the following: 1) library sales; 2) estate sales; 3) used bookstore; 4) remainder distributors; 5) postal service auctions; 6) Treasury Department auctions; book fairs; 7) bargain tables; 8) classified ads; 9) thrift shops and 10) garage or yard sales. After collecting the books the next thing to do is to sort and classify using a system that enables easy presentation online.
This business can create a competitive advantage by developing a website with a search-engine optimized content therefore it is easier for consumers to locate hard-to-find books. This strategy is a response to the dominant position of Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
These superstores with a significant online presence has one major disadvantage and it is the numerous selection of books with a listing that may prove difficult to go through without the ability to properly use the search feature of the website. The proposed online store on the other hand has a website designed for easy use. It begins with a search-engine optimized content and therefore when a consumer types the name of the book, author, or ISBN number, the site can provide relevant results.
A key advantage is none other than low prices and speed of delivery. The improved response time is due to the size of the operation and the fact that it is easier to respond to e-mail and other customer inquiries because it is still a small operation. Nevertheless, as the company grows it is imperative to maintain these features in order to sustain high customer satisfaction.
Aside from an online presence there is a need to have a physical store that can be the starting point of aggressive marketing and advertising. The store must have prominent signs that can attract the attention of potential customers. There is also the need to pay for billboards and radio advertisements. Online presence can be intensified by developing blogs that has links to the online store. Therefore, the main strategy is to grow the business slowly with minimal exposure.
The brick and mortar operation is simply a foothold into the used books market. It jumpstarts the process but the focus should always be on the online store. A significant part of the resources must be used to improve the website and develop better online tools that make it easier for consumers to locate what they need.
The company must also invest in developing a more cost-efficient way of locating and buying used books. It has been mentioned earlier that one of the main sources are remainder distributors because of the huge volume of books available through this mechanism of dealing with used books. However, it can also be a trap because the store can acquire a great number of books that are difficult to sell.
The goal of the procurement team is not only to establish a cost-efficient protocol to locate and purchase books but also to determine if these books can still be sold for a profit (Ellis, 2006).
The ultimate goal is to minimize the number of books in the inventory because storage space costs money. Therefore, the procurement team must develop the ability to determine if a particular book is still in demand. There is no use buying books that only end up in storage facilities.
The procurement team must focus on the following genres: a) fiction books; b) sci-fi books; c) children’s books; d) biography books; and e) business books. It is relatively easy to determine if a particular fiction novel is still in demand. There are certain websites that can be used to determine the popularity of a particular title. It is also relatively easy to determine the popularity of a certain author. Sci-fi books on the other hand require an in-depth study in order to understand the needs of the target market when it comes to this genre.
Biography books must be purchased based on the date it was published. A biography book that was published five years ago is difficult to sell because of the condition of the book and the relevance of the content.
For example a book about George W. Bush written five years ago has little appeal as compared to books written after he stepped down from the presidency. On the other hand there are biography books that continue to be in demand and therefore procurement teams must take note of best sellers and other titles that are sought after by book collectors and enthusiasts.
Business books must be judged based on the relevance of the content. There are so many business concepts that have become popular in a span of a year and then become obsolete a few months later. Therefore, the best seller’s list is not a reliable indicator that a particular business book continues to be in demand a few years later.
The procurement team must therefore have knowledge about recent trends in the business world and determine not only the popularity of the authors but also the business ideas and leadership strategies that has captured the attention of the general public.
This business requires the participation of dedicated employees. It is therefore imperative to develop a hiring process that will determine the kind of workers that can thrive in this type of business. The procurement team is a key component of the business for they must have the ability to locate quality books at a low price.
They must maintain a collection that can generate sustained growth. The second most important component of the workforce is the workers that are in-charge of the online business. They must possess the necessary IT skills to develop the website and troubleshoot the system 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The third most important component of the workforce is the employees that are in-charge of maintaining the brick and mortar store.
The used books industry is a growing industry. Although there are dominant competitors in the market, statistics show that they can only cover half the share of the market. There are still many people who are new to the concept of buying used books online. There is therefore room for a company that makes it easier for customers to search the books that they need online. Aside from low prices this company will develop tools that make online shopping for used books easy and fulfilling.
Ellis, I. (2006). Book finds: how to find, buy, and sell used and rare books. New York: Penguin Books.
Leo, P. (2009). Selling online. CA: P & L Publications.
Minzesheimer, B. (2011). Is there hope for small bookstores in a digital age? Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2011-02-10-1Abookstores10_CV_N.htm
Weber, S. (2006). The home-based bookstore. New York: WeberBooks.
Windwalker, S. (2002). Selling used books online. MA: Harvard Perspective Press.