No specialty retailers have been affected more by the emergence of online superstores than book and music shops. In addition, book and music store owners face the challenge of having to compete against the e-book and downloadable music market. Many are forced to rethink their business strategy to meet growing consumer needs for books and music files that can be accessed from a laptop or mobile device.
To differentiate themselves from Internet retailers, book businesses are becoming shopping destinations instead of just stores. For example, many have started to offer an expanded selection of non-core items, such as coffee and food.
What Is Bookstore Software?
There are thousands of retail point of sale (POS) software vendors on the market to help book and music retailers with the most critical aspects of their business, such as inventory and pricing. Systems exist for large organizations with several locations, small “mom and pop” stores, and everything in between. The goal of this buyer’s guide is to help book and music retailers find the right POS software to meet their needs in this evolving market.
Book inventory software and POS are the key modules for book stores and music shop software. Book and music store inventories typically contain just a few duplicates of a large number of items, and special orders are common. Books and magazines are usually identified with a number in the form of a bar code, called the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) respectively. CDs (and albums, cassettes, and 45s produced after the 1970s) have Universal Product Codes (UPCs).
Many shops also have customer service and loyalty programs built into their business strategy, so customer relationship management (CRM) is another important aspect of software solutions as music and book stores are embracing social media to attract and maintain customers.
Ideally, systems should support both traditional stores and online sales, “bricks and clicks” operations. And, if stores buy product from customers to resell, the POS and accounts payable features need to integrate for the payments to be processed properly.
Key Requirements for Books/Music Retailers
Book and music retailers should consider the following functions to meet their unique requirements:
|Online inventory||A book or music store should have access to an online inventory system for the latest books and special orders.|
|ISBN and ISSN lookup||The system should be able to look up the ISBN or ISSN for any book or magazine. The information, such as title, publisher, and publication date, can be imported into the bookstore inventory software.|
|Non-book/non-music items||The system should support the sale of non-book/non-music items such as beverages, snacks, and toys.|
|UPC lookup||Access to a UPC library for CDs and other inventory is critical. The system should be able to populate the inventory system with stock numbers and descriptions from the UPC library.|
|Online store||The system should support online sales of items through a web storefront. If there are both an online store and a physical store, there should be an option to share the inventory between them or to keep the inventories separate.|
|Promotional pricing||The system should allow sale and promotional pricing. The pricing should change in the POS and inventory automatically at a specified time and date, if desired.|
|Customer loyalty program||As part of CRM and to further solidify customer relations, many music and book stores have customer loyalty programs. The store system should track sales history and monitor loyalty program points awarded and redeemed.|
|Spoilage reporting||If the store sell perishable goods; the “sell by” dates must be tracked, expired inventory must be collected and disposed of, and the process properly documented.|
|Gift set packaging||One of the key promotions for book and music stores are gift sets. The POS system must support gift set sales for a single price but correctly decrease inventory levels for the individual items when a gift set is sold.|
|Book/music buying||If the store buys used books or music for resale, the system should have access to an online database to help determine the price. The POS should support the buying process and handle the transaction correctly through accounts payable and general ledger.|
|Online music and e-book sales||If there is an online store, it should be able to sell music downloads and e-books in popular formats. Online bookstore software should handle the digital rights management (DRM) and royalties.|
|Online storefront integration||Many bookstore owners will sell through other online mediums, such as Amazon, Biblio, AbeBooks and others. The system should be able to integrate with these online storefronts.|
|Query-based lists||Users should be able to create lists and sublists of inventory based on keywords. A very helpful feature for both store owners and customers.|
|Customizable fields||The system should allow users to create new fields, customize the length of these fields, and vary the type of information included.|
Most book stores use on-premise systems. In fact, paper-based systems are still used by some. However, software as a service (SaaS) systems are available and provide an attractive alternative for book stores and music shops that are upgrading or replacing current systems.
Most SaaS, or web-based, applications are hosted on the vendor’s servers and paid for by monthly subscription. This deployment option is ideal for buyers who prefer lower monthly payments over a costly upfront investment.
A final benefit of SaaS software is increased accessibility. Users can access these systems from any device with an Internet connection and from Mac or PC operating systems.
Buyers should keep the following trends and events in mind as they evaluate systems:
- Mobile POS.Mobile POS applications are becoming increasingly common for retailers. These systems enable users to process payments wirelessly and access inventory/sales data remotely. With the popularity of Apple's iPad and the iPad 2, released March 2011, more vendors are developing versions of their traditional POS applications for Apple operating systems. For instance, in June 2012 Revel Systems released a point of POS system that operates on Apple iPads or iPhones, turning them into wireless cash registers.
- Social media and customer loyalty programs.Social media is changing the way businesses gauge customer loyalty and identify and resolve customer issues. Businesses are monitoring what people are say about their brands on social networks, joining the conversation to show that they are listening and answering customer service requests to promote and protect their brands.