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Buy It Later Hybrid Stores

A process for stores to profit from the inspiration they generate.

Media sins

The time when music became accessible for free via soulseek, napster, torrents or other download sites many of us did those quarterly $60 guilt trips to our pre mp3 record store to redeem our media sins. We didn’t want them to go out of business, of course!

St. Marks's Bookshop

I nowadays feel that guilt creeping up on me when I browse around in my favorite bookstores such as ProQM in Berlin or St. Marks in Manhattan. Almost all the time I find interesting material, but I don’t always buy it in a physical store for two reasons. And trust me I am a compulsive book buyer, just not on the Obrist level. 

First reason is $$$$, while I want to support those stores that I have been frequenting for  a long time I find it hard to buy a book that I can buy for 30-50% less on Amazon or other online store. This doesn’t have such a huge effect on paperbacks, but for art books the savings can be $20-$40 per book. Take for example the excellent book “A Touch of Code” by the Gestalten Verlag, in a store its $68 and Amazon has it $25 cheaper for $42. If I buy it on spot then it really needs to be a masterpiece that I need right away. Providers such as Amazon also allows me to choose from a variety of editions such as hardcover, paperback, audiobook or ebook that might suit me better then whats in the store. 

Second reason is that I often don’t need the book right away, why bother carrying around the book  when I can have it delivered. I see the same pattern on the web,  constantly you find interesting material but you can’t always consume it right a way, so I add them to my Read It Later Queue, same for Videos that I find interesting. But there is no Buy It Later for physical stores, yet.

Redeeming our media sins

A simple solution would be of course to have a tip container or a credit card reader terminal to allow us to donate what we think is a fair value for the inspiration provided. A better solution will do without adding a new interaction and provide the stores with a reliable commission per product.

Affiliate Programs

Many digital stores operate affiliate programs. Users that link to products of the store receive a commission on a purchased  product. So when someone clicks on a link to an Amazon book or  home theater system on your blog or twitter feed and buys the product you get a commission. This can be up to 15% in case of Amazon. 

Physical Affiliate Programs

 You can deploy an affiliate program such as Amazon’s in a physical store by simply providing a sticker with a barcode on the book that links to the Amazon product page. Take the book “A Touch of Code” again. Scanning the code below will link to the Amazon page of the product. When someone buys the book the affiliate receives a commission.

Creating these QR code stickers is simple. You need to be a member of the Affiliate Program, create an affiliate link for product through their interface and use the link to create a barcode. This can be automated without much effort.

Modes of Deployment

Existing bookstores that want to earn on online purchase referrals in their store just need to create a sticker with a barcode as above on their products and they are done. Of course I can understand reluctance against Amazon, I talked to book store owners and many see Amazon as their arch rival. But I think its better to interact with them in a positive way then to simply dismiss the idea of working with them. This concept is, of course, not limited to bookstores only: why not buy the books that lie around in a café or even buy the chair you are sitting on?

On the other end of the spectrum you can envision stores that have no actual cash register, stock storage, supply management and book keeping. All products on display can only be bought via your cell phone. You may not even need a typical store space since you can run your store in parts of your apartment, a transporter car or even a simple street cart.

Venta callejera

The prices will be the extremely competitive prices of Amazon and can have the whole breadth of products that Amazon provides such as toys, cameras, books, music, cell phones or HD television systems. Advantage over a pure virtual store with no actual products is that such a hybrid store will let you experience the product first hand.

As the barrier of entry to those kinds of stores is very low, I am hopeful that many will seize the opportunity and explore the concept.

UDPATE: I created a exemplary interface to create those QR Codes: http://hyper-books.com/buy_it_later/ . Source code can be found on github.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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