E-Commerce Report for The Book Emporium

Technological advancements keep expanding the boundaries of people’s daily lives, influencing many industries at once. Bookstores are not left untouched by the progress as well, and the World Wide Web is rapidly transforming the book market. E-commerce has taken over this particular market the strongest, as it is possible to release the product without any need for its physical copies.

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The e-book industry continues to grow larger by year, and there are no signs of its future downfall. The industry report by Mordor Intelligence (2019) suggests that “there is a spike in the ownership of both tablet computers and e-book reading devices” (para. 3). Portable reading devices have become cheaper and more accessible, and the e-book market grows bigger every year. Yet it is highly fragmented despite having such giants as Amazon in the same field, which signals its accessibility for new firms to join. Entering this market might be a challenging task, but it is crucial for modern bookstores to do so in order to stay competitive.

Online Bookstore Operating Environment Analysis

The online market for books and related services is shaped by modern technologies and customers’ preferences. Despite the growing popularity of e-books, print books are still the most used reading material, yet younger generations have a higher percentage of e-book consumption. The survey done by Perrin (2016) states that “young adults are more likely than their elders to read books in various digital formats, but are also more likely to read print books” (para. 14). However, there is no denying that physical copies of books have troubles competing with more compact, cheaper in production, and more accessible e-books. The emergence of digital books had the highest impact on brick-and-mortar stores as their customer numbers were not high enough to endure the impact (Maxim An. and Maxim Al., 2012). It is only logical for The Book Emporium to take a step in the direction of going digital.

The number of consumers who own e-reader steadily increases, and many people use smartphones and tablets as reading devices as well. This is especially important for the market of science fiction and fantasy books, as fiction book sales are the highest among all genres on digital platforms (Corson-Knowles, 2019). While Amazon refuses to provide the thorough statistics on e-book sales, it is possible to observe the rising numbers of e-books sold in their store (Ha, 2018). E-commerce markets have their own specific strengths and vulnerabilities, the analysis of which is presented below.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths
  • The store is accessible to customers from anywhere, anytime
  • Increased cost effectiveness
  • Fewer employees required to sustain the workflow
  • Excessive data from website will allow easier marketing for targeted populations
Weaknesses
  • Customer expectations are set high after interacting with bigger firms on the market
  • The website requires constant updates and maintenance
  • The store is reliable on external delivery services, hosting providers, and payment systems
Opportunities
  • Online sales are steadily increasing worldwide
  • Online shops have better publicity and product reach
  • Internet provides more grounds for promotions and surveys
Threats
  • People with little knowledge of digital shopping might feel discouraged to use the site.
  • A low entry barrier makes the market highly competitive.
  • Online products could be a target for fraudulent activities.
  • Personal data regulations offer additional stress on security.

PESTLE Analysis

Politics

Competition and Markets Authority will be the main influencer and law enforcement department for the online bookstore. They are to uphold fair trade laws and prevent anti-competitive behaviour.

Economics

The emerging economic concern raises more questions about alternatives to book printing. This issue originates from increased paper prices, which continue to rise for more than four years (Statista, 2019)

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Social

Screen tiredness that accumulated in society slowed down the popularity of e-readers, but large companies like Amazon promote usage of such products to ensure that their popularity will not dwindle.

Technology

The technological progress continues to have an immense impact on the book market at fast speed. As the market becomes more digitized, it is important to adapt the technologies to be successful. Several ready-made technological solutions are available for small businesses that are going online.

Legal

The legal factors in the book market target authors and publishers. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 protects authors’ works and prohibits copying, adapting, issuing, or publicly performing without permission from the copyright’s owner.

Environment

According to Amasawa et al. (2018), “adoption of e-readers reduces the GWP from book reading activities with only paper books, provided more than 4.7 paper books are substituted by e-books annually” (p. 1886). E-readers are providing a better alternative in terms of gas emission than books, and have lesser impact during transportation of the product.

A Decision on the Various Online Platforms

The Book Emporium aims to provide various services besides online book sales, which puts additional requirements on flexibility of the chosen platform for business. However, its limited knowledge of online operation makes some platforms that require tech-savvy staff to operate at full effectiveness a bad choice. The following popular platforms were identified as potentially suitable and compared with each other: Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce. While the features of Shopify and BigCommerce are generally similar, WooCommerce provides a smaller set of tools, but has greater flexibility.

Platform Shopify BigCommerce WooCommerce
Pros Provides easy-to-use site constructing tools.
Collects and analyzes extensive statistics about the store.
Simplest of all three platforms.
Provides 24/7 support for store owners via multiple networks.
Allows extensive third-party additions and interactions with other platforms such as Facebook, eBay, or Amazon.
The platform has the most build-in features to choose from and provides greater support for large-scale businesses.
Cheaper design solutions provided by the platform.
Comes with over 100 various payment options for customers without imposing transaction fees.
In essence, it is a free e-commerce plugin for an existing website, making it more flexible than other choices.
Cons While the platform does not charge any extra per product sold, it does take a small transaction fee. Harder to edit due to usage of technical terms and complex user interface.
Forces successful businesses to upgrade their plans to a much expensive one.
Requires additional knowledge to reach its full potential.
Does not come with a complete package and needs larger input to open a store.

From this comparison, it is recommended to use Shopify as an online store platform for The Book Emporium. Users more often search for this platform than the others, therefore, it is more popular (Google Trends, 2020). As for the payment plans and fees, Shopify also serves as the best choice. Perhaps, the most important feature is the simplicity of usage, which suits The Book Emporium best due to requiring zero experience in online trades.

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Revenue Model

There are several options available for The Book Emporium to earn revenue as an e-commerce business. Revenue models that are available to the store are advertising and revenue share. E-commerce stores are the perfect place to put advertising, especially if the store has high traffic numbers. Such advertisement publishers as Google Adsense and Yahoo Advertising are providing pay-per-view and pay-per-click revenue options for websites, which is possible to integrate in The Book Emporium webpage. An additional space for advertising will be provided for sale to authors who would like more public exposure.

The second option is revenue share, which is already in use by the company. While implementing this type of revenue model is difficult in a regular store, the online aspect of this setting allows for simpler contracts (Tian et al., 2018). The Book Emporium could create a page on its website with the information of services/products offered by a third party. It is also possible to allow affiliated freelancers who provide cover design and book editing services to have their own pages within the site structure for a fee. The similar design is applicable for dealing with publishers who would like to appear on the store catalogue. While their product will appear in global catalogue, The Book Emporium can provide them with an opportunity to set their own page of their design and content for an additional price.

To sustain a continuous flow of customers, it is crucial for the store to constantly update its contents. For this purpose, inviting new authors to use the website as their starting point will be the main force for making profits. With growing numbers of published books, the internet traffic on the website will rise, which would make the website more preferable for advertising platforms to place their ads on.

Online marketing service could be used for increasing revenue by adding an option for authors to pay for external advertisements. This service will include purchasing advertisements from aforementioned advertisement publishers that lead from external websites to the author’s page on The Book Emporium website. This will also positively affect the incoming traffic and attract customers to an entire shop, therefore, the price should not be high.

Another available revenue option is to sell customers’ anonymised data on their behaviour in store, e.g. which pages they visited, how long they stayed, and what books are more popular in which age category. Marketing companies are willing to pay a good price for this information. However, the store has to make sure it stays within the General Data Protection Regulation act.

Pricing Strategy

To create a successful online store it is required to have a reasonable pricing strategy that is comparable to the prices of similar shops on the market. Since the market for digital books is easy to enter, it is diluted by smaller e-commerce firms, however, it is still considered an oligopoly by some (Wu, 2018). The current proposed fee of 30% price charged from each sale is standard to most other digital stores, like Amazon or Apple iBooks.

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However, since The Book Emporium is a specialized store, it is more likely to attract customers who are more interested in purchasing fantasy and science fiction books, allowing it to set a slightly higher fee. Moreover, it is possible to collect, buy, and store customers’ data to create personalized pricings. Björklund (2017) states that it would allow to estimate “how much a person would be willing to pay, given his or her personal circumstances” (p. 2), and, therefore, maximize the store’s profits. Digital book sales or print-on-demand tactics reduce the strain on the store from transportation costs.

On the other hand, the prices on digital goods are usually lower than on physical counterparts. Studies by Cheng et al. (2017) show that “consumption value for an electronic book is less than that for a printed book, so the electronic book retail store has to set a low price” (p. 1424). Therefore, prices on digital copies of books are supposed to be set at about half of retail prices of their printed versions. Considering the listed factors, a proposed charge fee on all books sold for The Book Emporium should be increased to 35% over a period of several months, if all possible pricing opportunities are used.

The pricings of marketing services vary from the popularity of the store, and should start from lowest prices at the beginning. Advertising the products sold on The Book Emporium website will not only increase the author’s earnings, but also attract more customers to the store. Book-related services are in the same situation: their presence on the website serves its popularity and attracts traffic, but once the store obtains some prestige it would be reasonable to increase service providing fees.

It will be rational to keep the prices at the barest minimum in the beginning in order to gain a good reputation. Some practices from Amazon store are to be examined for a possibility of adaptation, such as free shipping for large orders or coupons for new customers on books with prices higher than average. Reaching the targeted population and obtaining the regular customer base should be considered the main priority when pricing comes in question. Once the store has some popularity, it is possible to use it as leverage for higher prices.

Business Model

There are numerous digital bookstores nowadays, and the attractiveness of one shop over another can be hard to pinpoint. The Book Emporium already has several positive qualities, such as retail experience, consumer’s trust, business connections, and physical accessibility. However, prices of printed books include various factors like transportation costs, insurance payments, and printing costs, that are absent in digital products. To enter the market of digital bookselling, The Book Emporium is required to undergo a certain set of changes aimed on modernizing the technologies and strategies used in retailing.

The store already has a special niché, which should serve as a starting point for attracting customers. This addition to the physical store will not be very costly for the company as, for example, opening a second store, because of the nature of the product. It also opens up a possibility of selling goods without geographic limitations, eg. overseas, increasing business’ revenue. The issues raised along with this wide range of sales are negated by the fact that Shopify provides a complete set of tools required to sell products to almost any country in the world.

As was mentioned before, the first step requires the store to set the prices on its products and services at a bare minimum to ensure high unit sales. In turn, high unit sales will attract more authors to use The Book Emporium as a selling platform. Acquiring more ground to maneuver in form of product and service variety will guarantee prolonged financial success of the company.

Purchasing targeted advertising over the major social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will significantly boost the publicity of the store. Another suggested tactic to be adapted from Amazon is opening more marketing channels to communicate with existing and potential customers and stay visible to them at all times (Sani et al., 2017). Creating the mobile application that duplicates the store functionality is also a noticeable trend in major companies (Sani et al., 2017). As an additional incentive for people to keep a keen eye on the store updates, The Book Emporium should notify customers about store additions, sales, or special offers. Collected personalized data will allow the firm to build more precise mass mailing lists. Empowering customers by giving them an option to leave a review and make their opinion visible also works in favor of a good company’s image.

The store must have some value for authors to increase product variability. While it is harder to compete with the market giants in these terms, it is still possible to create such conditions that shows authors that the store highly values their work. Promotion periods with initial lower fees or free advertising of the first published work will help in obtaining a bigger author base. Financially, the online business requires larger sales volumes to be profitable than the physical retail store, although it is achievable with given instruments and a proper marketing strategy.

Business Model Canvas

Key Partners:
  • Book authors
  • Book cover artists
  • Book editors
  • Shopify
  • Delivery services
Key Activities:
  • Book publishing
  • Book editing
  • Book sales
  • Advertising and promoting
Value Propositions:
  • Comparable or lower prices
  • Acceptable fees for authors
  • Personalized pricing strategy
  • Convenience and availability
  • Mobile application
  • Products and services variability
Customer Relationship:
  • Customers’ support
  • Customers’ reviews
  • Interactions outside the store
Customer Segment:
  • Young Readers
  • Fans of fantasy settings
  • Highly educated readers (Menadue, 2018)
Core Resources:
  • Fiction authors
  • Artists
  • Transportation services
  • Shopify
  • Copyright law/agency
Channels:
  • The Book Emporium website
  • The physical store
  • Social media
  • Mobile application
  • Advertising platforms
Cost Structures:
  • Royalty fees.
  • Promotions and advertisements of the store.
  • Shopify Basic: $29 per month, with 2.9% + 30¢ per online transaction.
  • Physical product delivery costs.
  • Website and application maintenance
Revenue Streams:
  • Website sales.
  • Fees for provided services.
  • Advertising/Marketing.
  • Mobile application sales.
  • Data sales.

Payment Systems

There are hundreds of payment systems across the globe, and for a digital store to reach its full potential, it should allow customers to utilize the payment system of their choice. The choice of a payment system in the online platform Shopify is not required from the retailer. The platform provides access to the most popular payment systems and has automated currency conversion.

In order to reduce the number of unnecessary choices for customers, it is possible to leave only the desired systems. Consumers take several factors in consideration when choosing a payment system: perceived security, trust, past experience, and widespread usage (Oney et al., 2017). From a retailer’s point of view, there are more factors added, such as reliability, integration, flexibility, efficiency, and conversion (Yang, 2017). Several payment systems suit all these factors, therefore, they are the most desirable by both parties. Debit cards (Visa or MasterCard) and NetBank are the most popular worldwide, while PayPal is more popular in European countries (Yang, 2017). It is advisable to leave the amount of options available to customers as it is, since they are included in the Shopify package. However, if any other retail platform is to be chosen, PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, and NetBank are all suitable options for electronic payment systems of choice.

Conclusions

The current market environment allows a painless addition of a digital store to an existing structure of The Book Emporium. There are opportunities to grow financially, but they require the store to go through a period of lower profitability in order to increase unit sales. Popularity of digital books has decreased in the past years due to the growing presence of streaming services , but their sales still consist of £653m in year 2019 (The Guardian, 2019). The market is open for The Book Emporium to enter and take its niché in retailing fantasy and science fiction books.

References

Amasawa, E., Ihara, T., & Hanaki, K. (2017). Role of e-reader adoption in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of book reading activities. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 23(9), 1874–1887. Web.

Björklund, W. (2017). Personalized pricing through profiling. Stockholm University.

Corson-Knowles, T. (2019). List of the top #100 most competitive Amazon Kindle bestseller categories. TCKPublishing. Web.

Cheng, Y., Dong, C., & Liu, R. (2017). The coexistence of printed book and electronic book in a book supply chain. IEEE International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management (IEEM). Web.

Ha, T.-H. (2018). Are ebooks dying or thriving? The answer is yes. Quarz. Web.

Google Trends. (2020). Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce – Explore – Google Trends. Web.

Maxim, An. & Maxim, Al. (2012). The role of e-books in reshaping the publishing industry. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 62, 1046-1050. Web.

Menadue, C.B., Jacups, S. (2018). Who reads science fiction and fantasy, and how do they feel about science? Preliminary findings from an online survey. SAGE Open, 8(2). Web.

Mordor Intelligence. (2019). E-book market: Growth, trends, and forecasts (2020-2025). Web.

Oney E., Guven, G.O., & Rizvi, W.H. (2017). The determinants of electronic payment systems usage from consumers’ perspective, Economic Research-Ekonomska Istraživanja, 30(1), 394-415. Web.

Perrin, A. (2016). Book reading 2016. Pew Research Center. Web.

Sabanoglu, T. (2019) Producer Price Index (PPI): monthly output price of paper and paper products in the United Kingdom (UK) from January 2016 to September 2019. Statista. Web.

Sani, F.N.B.A., Majek, H.M., Khairudin, U.A., Rahman, A., & Dahlan, A. (2017) E-bookstore: Opening door to the garden of knowledge. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 7(6), 531-541. Web.

Sweney, M. (2019). New chapter? UK print book sales fall while audiobooks surge 43%. The Guardian. Web.

Tian, L., Vakharia, A. J., Tan, Y., Xu, Y. (2018). Marketplace, reseller, or hybrid: Strategic analysis of an emerging e-commerce model. Production and Operations Management, 27(8), 1595-1610. Web.

Xu, S.X. (2018). Adaptation or death? Bookstore chains meet online competition. Indiana University.

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