Substantial Growth In Online Sales For Independent Bookstores

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Big web retailers and online marketplaces no longer have a near monopoly on selling books online. Since 2020, Independent bookstores on the IndieCommerce (IC) platform have seen a 580% increase in sales with over $200 million in online revenue for those bookstores.

With this massive shift in consumer shopping behavior, this is the time for independent bookstores to grow their online sales. IndieCommerce is an e-commerce platform that provides independent bookstores with all the features necessary to launch and manage a bookstore’s website. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of using IndieCommerce as an e-commerce solution for independent bookstores and how it stands out from other e-commerce platforms your store might be considering.

What is IndieCommerce?

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) was founded in 1900. It is a national not-for-profit trade organization that supports the success of independent bookstores. In 2001 the ABA built our first comprehensive website platform specifically designed for Independent bookstores. In 2022, ABA invested over $3 million dollars to build the new IndieCommerce 2.0 platform. This new platform incorporates the best of over 20 years of feature development and feedback from ABA member stores and new cutting edge features specifically requested by independent bookstores. The IC 2.0 platform is easy to use and comes with payment processing, order management, inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, point of sale integration with multiple bookstore POS systems, and  access to book data for over 14 million titles.

Why Choose IndieCommerce for your Store?

Unlike generic “For Profit” e-commerce solutions that you may be considering, IndieCommerce is part of a national, not for profit trade organization that works specifically for our member bookstores. Your monthly IndieCommerce hosting fees go directly back to the development and support of your store’s website platform. When you host your website with IndieCommerce, your trade organization works for you. It’s like having a dedicated IT team for your bookstore’s website.

Benefits of Using IndieCommerce for Your Store’s Site

IndieCommerce is the perfect e-commerce platform for independent bookstores to launch their online business. It is an affordable, robust, and powerful e-commerce solution that provides bookstores with everything they need to build their own website and start selling their products online. Here are some of the key benefits of using IndieCommerce.

  • 14 Million Titles: Every website on the IndieCommerce platform has access to a catalog of over 14 million titles. That book data is provided by Ingram Content Group and is supplemented by ONIX book data from all major US publishers.
  • Cost Effective: IndieCommerce is an affordable platform for independent bookstores, with no setup costs. We work for our member bookstores and your hosting fees go back into the support and development of the platform.
  • Security: IndieCommerce offers secure payment processing and data protection, ensuring that customer data is safe and secure. Our platform is PCI compliant and is regularly tested by a third-party service provider for security vulnerabilities.
  • We Can Handle Traffic: Your website is hosted on a scalable, enterprise-level platform. Let’s say you tell us you are going to sell a limited number of signed copies from a major author starting at 3:00 pm Monday. We can quickly add resources to your website to manage that flash sale of online orders.
  • Comprehensive Tools: IndieCommerce provides comprehensive tools for website building, payment processing, order management, inventory management, POS integration, marketing, and customer relationship management (CRM).
  • Easy to Use: Bookstores want a platform that is easy to take care of, so that’s what we built. IndieCommerce is easy to use and requires no coding skills or technical knowledge. We train each store on how to manage their website and our customer support team is available to assist when you need us.
  • Customization: IndieCommerce allows bookstores to customize their website design to match their brand and highlight features and services that many generic e-commerce services just don’t offer.
  • Support: IndieCommerce offers support for bookstores every step of the way, from setting up your website to any questions you may have about your website’s daily operation. We’re here to help you. Our customer support team only works with bookstores, so they understand your business and your needs.

Real Sales Numbers on a Proven Platform

In the post-COVID world, the expectation was that once in-store shopping returned to normal, online sales would drop to pre-COVID levels. Remarkably, they have not. In 2022, IndieCommerce websites had online sales of over $42M. That’s a big jump from $12M in 2019. That averages out to $65K per store in 2022 (with a median of $35K for 650 stores) compared to an average of just $26K per store in 2019 (with a median of ~$8K for 502 stores). 

Growth in online sales for independent bookstores is something that few thought was possible with Amazon’s almost complete dominance of online book sales. The annual ABACUS-21 financial report for independent bookstores found that 29.6% of reporting stores sales revenue came from online sales. In 2018, that percentage was just 1.3%. Online sales now represent a significant percentage of independent bookstore annual revenue.

Next Steps

To take advantage of the growing popularity of shopping with indies online, every indie bookstore should have a high-quality website that is professionally designed, e-commerce enabled, and fits the specific needs of your store. If you are interested in finding out if the new IndieCommerce 2.0 platform would fit the e-commerce needs of your bookstore, we’re here to help. Email [email protected].

This article was written by Director of IndieCommerce Phil Davies, and was assisted by AI. While this is an example of how ChatGPT and other AI can be used, we encourage you to check out 5 Steps for AI and Your Store.