Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Is the Amazon Scandal Backfiring?

This holiday season, Amazon is getting a lot of press coverage... and not in a good way. There's a huge backlash from the book industry regarding Amazon's Price Check App, which allows people to scan barcodes with their mobile device (on books for example), compare the price on Amazon, and then decide where to buy. Not surprisingly, brick-and-mortar bookstores--already suffering in a changing industry--are often unable to compete with Amazon's prices.

Now, I do have to say that the thought of walking into a bookstore, leafing through their books, and using their free wi-fi to put the items in my cart elsewhere is a concept that I find disgusting. I would never do it--not before knowing about the App and not after. My entrepreneurial spirit and personal ethics would simply not allow such a thing.

However, with all the media coverage (although negative),  I can't help but wonder: How many people are reading these articles and thinking, "Wow, I didn't know about that App! What a great idea! Let me download it right now."

Further, store owners who are "catching" people doing this are asking customers to leave, warning them as they arrive, and doing other things to try and prevent this from happening in their stores. And to some extent I respect them for it.

On the other hand, asking customers (perhaps some of their only customers) to leave, or alienating them as soon as they walk in, is likely not the best way to maintain a client base in an already struggling situation.

Are there any alternatives? Maybe. Having been self-employed for more than 20 years, including as a small business consultant, I have found that befriending the competition is far more effective than fighting them. (Just because you wish it, does not make them go away.) What if stores were to set up a computer, open to Amazon's page, for customers to use? And what if they were to post a sign next to the computer welcoming patrons to compare and providing a short list of reasons why it's worth it to pay a couple of bucks more here in their store? What if, instead of "warning" customers as they arrive, they were to welcome them warmly, thank them for patronizing their store, and hand them a small flyer listing the reasons why it's wonderful to buy here? (Free coffee? Helpful staff? Free gift wrapping? Cozy sofas? A 5% coupon? The store cat? Genuine appreciation?)

I understand how frustrating it is for a small business person to try and go up against a "giant." Believe me... I'm in the middle of launching a book release as a debut novelist, faced with obstacles due to my "smallness" at every turn! But just as the huge publishing houses are not going to back off just because I wish they would, neither will Amazon.

It is my hope that this holiday season, some of the brick-and-mortar stores will find ways to turn the tides in their favor. I hope this article gives them some great ideas. And I look forward to meeting some of them in person when I'm on my old-fashioned, in-person book tour!... At their actual store!

To learn more about my upcoming release, "Momnesia," I invite you to visit my website, www.LoriVerniFogarsi.com, my publisher's website, www.BrickstonePublishing.com, and join me on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LoriTheAuthor.

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