A new TwoReads app for bookshops

Today we will present in detail our app, developed in IBS di Padova’s IBS bookstore, Padova’s IBS bookstore, for TwoReads bookshops. As has been mentioned already in a previous post, we have worked for the most part on simplifying the app and making it quick and easy to use, so as not to have an awkward infopoint, but a tool which is perfectly integrated in the environment and experience of the bookshop.

We have received positive results from our tests, which we have made with seven tablets, placed around a floor of the bookstore:

  • 42% is the ratio between the amount of people who have entered the bookhsop and the amount of searches carried out on the tablets.
  • 7% of what was sold had been previously searched for on the app.
  • 20% of total orders (books which were not present in the library) were first searched for on the app.

These numbers are a great result for us and we believe they can only but grow, especially if we consider that: a) these were only preliminary tests; b) we were only present on one of the two floors of the library.

In general, we find it hard to dispute the added value of such a tool for the bookshop’s customers. The variety of our customers is particularly interesting: from very young customers who use the app without the need for any assistance, who at times show their parents how to use it, to curious elderly customers who explore a new tool (we hope that this is also an indication that our app is simple and easy to use).

Una app per tutte le età.

It is often that we ask ourselves: how do we get young people reading? There is no simple answer, but let us start by overcoming the barriers and favouring independent discovery and choice. Let us give them the opportunity to find their way amongst the thousands of books with apps which are fun, easy and most similar to the tecnology which they already use for everything else. So, let us bring reading to the youth of today!

Once again we must say, it is by no means an issue of ebooks and tablets vs. “traditional books”, but a question of how we experience the discovery of contents. On this level, there are huge opportunities for improvement, for paper books as much as for digital ones.

Development

Our work process includes three work phases which are constantly repeated:

  • TEST: by observing customers using our app, we make notes of the problems which they encounter (without interfering with the customer).
  • PLANNING: every five customers (more or less), we make a list of the problems which have been encountered, arranging them by grades of importance and hypothesise a number of solutions for the first three of these.
  • DEVELOPMENT: we opt for the solutions which offer the best compromise between the best result possible and the quickest to develop. Here the cycle begins again, with new test.

sequenza

This method of development has allowed the app to pass from one version to the next at great speed. More importantly, it has permitted us to revise the key points precisely for our customers and to test our modifications immediately.

Frame and Homepage

La cornice bianca intorno al tablet e la schermata principale della app.

Frame and homepage are two crucial components because they define the first impact with the app in the bookshop. It is clear that, even just because people are not accustomed to finding one in such a place, a tablet is often overlooked by customers and they walk right past it. Therefore, it is fundamental that for the first impact the tablet be as visible as possible (without being invasive or intrusive) and that it say in the quickest way possible: “here is what you can use me for and how”.

The best solution which we have tried so far, from a performance point of view, is to write SEARCH on the homepage (CERCA in Italian), in large capital letters, over an active input field and an open keyboard.  This has made the scope of the app, placed in front of the shelf, immediately and unmistakably clear: to search the contents of the bookshop with a keyboard.

The tablet is enclosed in a white frame, made especially in order to block the option buttons, which are always enabled on Adroid tablets: in this way, our users cannot leave the app. The frame has proved to be an excellent choice, as it cleans the area surrounding the tablet, making it more visible while also becoming a platform for  targeted communication.

Search Results

Schermata dei risultati della ricerca

Another challenging issue is how search results should be displayed. We have decided to indicate openly whether a book is present in the bookshop or whether it is listed in the catalogue but out of stock, in order to avoid confusing readers. Naturally, the amount of books available in a bookshop is much smaller than those which are on the market. Even in a large bookstore with thirtythousand items in stock, we are at a ratio of about 1.5%.

Therefore, we had to give our customers the opportunity to place orders on books in the bookstore. We tried to implement this as best as possible for items which were on the market but not available in the shop and, judging by the impact on new orders, there has been a tangible increase in revenue.

The app is designed to be used promptly and therefore, we have chosen to display in the results page several main pieces of information: availability, cover page and for items which are in stock, also the first part of the blurb and the selling price. Furthermore, by implementing a rather easy procedure which we have described in another blog post, it will be possible to locate books, that is, indicate their precise location on the shelves.

As we carried out our tests, we understood that we could display part of the data sheet in the list of search results, but for the moment we have included this option only for books that are in stock, so as to avoid overwhelming the page with information (see image above). Furthermore, the search-results page has been designed so that it can be used by booksellers as well, who can now quickly check whether a book is in stock or not.

Book Profiles

Schermata di una scheda libro.

Another important decision was that of including a number of recommended books in the book profiles, that is, a series of “similar books” which sold by the bookstore. Test results revealed that this was a good move, both for those who search by topic, who take a look at a book and quickly discover new ones and for those who are interested in a book which is unavailable in the bookshop and who move on to another which is in stock.

If you want to do more of something, make the friction less

As we were carrying out our tests throughout the bookshop, we came across this sentence in an interview with Jeff Bezos. It had a great impact on us and represents exactly the work we are doing with our app: we wanted people to use it more and more, so we started getting rid of frictions in the way in worked, realigning them with our expectations.

In this month of trials, we have finally been able to observe life in a bookshop very closely and examine the relationship that people have with it. We believe that there are numerous sources of friction in bookshops which keep them from thriving, in particular getting readers to experience books more closely: if we want people to read more, we must first make less of all the frictions which present themselves between them and the books which they want to read.

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