Monday, June 11, 2012

Selling Books Like Candy

If you have visited or live in New York City there is one place to check out that never disappoints: Dylan’s Candy Bar. But as much as I love candy, what I want to discuss today is packaging and presentation.

What makes Dylan’s special is its vast offering of a variety of candy, gum, and sweets. It has retro candy from the childhood of anyone. For me, I like to get a giant pack of Fruit Striped Gum. The flavor of each piece is intensely delicious for about 12 seconds and then I need another slice, and another, and another to sustain me. It is such a wonderful thing to be addicted to. It brings me back to the Seventies of my Brooklyn youth.

Anyway, back to packaging. The store is a designer’s dream. It is brightly lit. Color reflects off of every surface. Candy, in all shapes and sizes, including extra-large everything, is right in front of you, begging to be consumed. Each candy has great packaging but the store goes a step further in how it displays or combines items. The store has a logo that it pushes on T-shirts and other inviting items. The cashier says to every shopper: “Have a sweet day.”

The whole shopping experience makes it cool and desirable to overpay for foods that Mayor Bloomberg will likely outlaw soon. Diet and teeth be damned – bring on the candy like a dream visit to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory!

All of this focus on packaging and presentation leaves me to wonder: How are things packaged online to appeal to consumers? A physical bookstore with a physical product should have a strategic advantage in selling items over an electronic box, right?

Except that people find online shopping:

·        Faster – no time spent waiting on long line.
·        Effortless - -no walk or drive to the store is needed
·        Cheaper – discounted ebooks can be bought, often without paying sales tax.

Online is fine if you know what you want and if you value the digital life. But what of physical books? Who is hand-selling them? Who is stumbling upon a book? Where is the discoverability? It is not there, online.

We still need bookstores, and we need stores more than ever, to display things (not just stack onto shelves) that make us feel like we are in Dylan’s Candy supermarket. The color, size, and texture of the books should grab your attention – and so should the displays of housing these books. Customer service reps should be walking the floor – not just to fill an order but to inspire one. Knowledgeable and interesting workers can sell books to people the way a good waiter can convince you to choose the special of the day.

Packaging certainly matters with candy, and it does for books, too.

Have You Seen This Past Week’s Posts?

You Can Use Crowdfunding On Your Next Book -- Turn Your Idea Into A Business

What The Bestseller List Sales Numbers Reveal

How Promoters, Authors & Publishers Get Others to Say YES

Shrinking Newspaper Industry Hurts Authors, Publishers, Publicists, & Citizens

The Appeal & Necessity Of Fiction

Don’t Make Me Like You!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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