Marketing and Business Strategy of Barnes and Noble
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Barnes and Noble is a large seller of books and has several locations throughout the world. Technology progressed very quickly in 2007, thus impacting the book market resulting in many organizations shutting their doors. A thorough analysis will reveal the actions took by Barnes & Noble survive the shifts in trends from books to electronic formats in a period where many were losing their jobs and homes because the company embraced the unknown variables utilizing sheer determination with tried and testing marketing strategies.
The Case Recap
The United States was at war, the economy was in trouble, e-readers were increasing popularity, and the internet shopping craze was increasing ten-fold because of the convenience. Consumers could avoid the crowds and spent several hours clicking through a website to find their products regardless of the time of day. Barnes & Noble was affected by the increase in technological advancements brought by Amazon with the implementation of the Kindle because books were purchased in an electronic format at a cheaper price. However, the Kindle was not the only factor as many more people were spending more hours watching television than reading. Reading was on a drastic decline and book lovers were no longer flocking to the local bookstore for the latest book. Books were sold in local stores such as Walmart, Target, and could be found in other locations.
Barnes and Noble had to find alternate methods to compete in the online marketplace, while maintaining their brick and mortal foundation. Barnes & Noble conducted a thorough analysis identifying specific trends in the marketplace and what exactly brought the customers into the store or onto the website.
Each organization has a set of issues unique for their organization and for Barnes & Noble it was necessary to identify the issues immediately. Rapid technological advancements of various formats affected the book sales industry and those advancements created challenges for the company. The demographic of their customers or specifically their clientele was changing because men were reading less than women, and more people were engaging in other activities besides reading. Finally, many analysts and financial advisors advised organizations, the government, and the public that an economic downturn was forthcoming. An economic downturn, such as a recession will have financial impacts on Barnes & Noble.
Root Problem Components
Books are bulky, take up space, and are often bulky. The creation of the e-reader identified the need for a compact solution. E-readers are portable and are taken anywhere. Everyone is busy with work, school and travel. People value devices that can simplify their lives and that is accomplished with an e-reader.
Many people in large times spend countless hours in traffic and do not have ample times to read. Audiobooks are convenient and were easy to play in the car. Imagine the appeal of having an audiobook in Morgan Freeman’s voice and just enjoying the story without concentrating on every word, every paragraph, or how many pages are left in the story.
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The ability for users to download books on various sharing platforms or websites (known as piracy) affects the sales of books. Years ago, there was a free e-book website allowing internet users to download classic stories such as Hamlet, Moby Dick, and the Bible. Customers do not need to venture outside the comfort of the world wide web and have an electronic copy instantaneously.
The product line of Barnes & Noble has products composed of books, textbooks, toys, games, gifts, movies and television, and music. The products are items customers are searching for when either shopping in a store or online.
Price. The price point of Barnes & Noble is competitive in the current marketplace based on information provided in the case analysis because the membership rate is $25.00 per year and offers additional incentives or perks with discounts varying from ten percent to 40 percent.
Place. The place or location of Barnes & Noble varies across the country, but there is approximately 630 brick and mortar stores (2018 Barnes & Noble Annual Report). The stores range from 3,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet, with the average square feet around 26,000 square feet (2018 Barnes & Noble Annual Report). Barnes & Noble has a store size based on the market size, meaning they would not put a 60,000 square foot store in Rapid City, South Dakota because the customer base could not support a store of that size.
Promotion. Promoting of Barnes & Noble consists through many different venues with membership and online media presence. The company instituted their website in 1997 and with the development of social media, they are constantly ensuring they maintain a relevant presence in the online community.
People. Books and other items are their foundation, but the people are who determine if they maintain an existence. Barnes & Noble understands the value of their customer and is constantly seeking ideas that appeal to people. Students can come to their local Barnes & Noble and study late over a cup of coffee and not worry about the student library closed on a Friday night.
Social media has transferred over the years from blogs to social networking sites where billions of people can interact with each other in real time, thousand of miles away. However, social media is not only about sharing pictures or uploading videos, it is and can be so much more. Barnes & Noble uses social media platforms to promote new authors, new releases, and encourages people to come and visit their local store. All over their Facebook page are posts from authors to promote their books and where the books are purchased.
Barnes & Noble is currently using Social Media in the month of June to promote #BookPride, where they support the LGBTQ communities across the country. The organization understands how important it is to support communities to show people that they are doing their part to bring awareness to those communities.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT)
Many organizations use SWOT analyses to determine exact where they stand in the marketplace in reference to their competitors (Iacobucci, 2018).
Strengths. Barnes & Noble has at least four strengths in the marketplace compared to their direct competitors and to other organizations attempting to enter the marketplace. Those strengths are identified as the following:
- Recognition due to their store locations across the world and their availability online.
- Customers do not have to wait for the product, which equates to if a customer needs a book immediately, they can head to their nearest Barnes & Noble to pick it up. They do not have to wait for the product to arrive. Also, they do not have to question the condition of the product.
- The environment is rather appealing to a college student, teenager, young couple, old couple. The environment appeals to all demographics because of the various products offered by Barnes & Noble. Essentially there is something for every person that chooses to shop at the store.
- Barnes & Noble has books on every subject a student could study in their class and offers a wide array of textbooks, which means students could get the additional resources needed for their classes.
Weaknesses. Organizations must identify key weaknesses to ensure they maintain their profitability and sustainability in the marketplace. As with any organization, Barnes & Noble has weaknesses and the identified four are as follows:
- Other competitors such as Amazon with the Kindle products and Walmart is now implementing their new e-reader.
- Barnes & Noble does not have stores in every market. Walmart, Target, and Sam’s Club has many locations across the United States.
- Believe it or not local libraries offer the ability for users to borrow books on their electronic devices.
- Cheaper prices are a weakness because their competitors such as Amazon will offer the book at a cheaper price and for many that is very important, regardless of the time it takes to arrive at their house.
Opportunities. Barnes & Noble has the chance to improve their company by maintaining and growing their customer base. There are several opportunities for Barnes & Noble to incorporate into their business such as:
- Every person with a Kindle has heard of the Nook and Nook owners have heard of the Kindle. Amazon offers the ability for customers to borrow books for free, read new releases for free, and read several books on an unlimited basis. To compete Barnes & Noble could offer their membership with the Nook and ensure customers receive a hard copy of the book for free, with an electronic version. Amazon only offers one version on the Kindle and Barnes & Noble could improve by offering a hard copy with an electronic version.
- Customers shopping for books may seek a specific price point and because of the price point customers do shop at other locations where the book is available. Barnes & Noble could participate in a price-match program. If Amazon sells a book for $11.00 but requires the customer to wait two days or longer. The same customer could purchase the book at Barnes & Noble for $11.00 and have it instantaneously. The customer would not have to wait for the latest book and the price is equivalent.
- There is a monopoly on books in airports. Hudson Booksellers is in many airports. Barnes & Noble can move into the airports as more and more people are traveling. Many people do not want to watch a movie for three hours and will look forward to reading a good book.
- It is understood that Amazon is in the book business, but there could be a win for Barnes & Noble if both collaborate and bring exclusive titles from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Consider the idea a short-term collaborative partnership resulting in a win for both entities. As Walmart enters into in the marketplace with their new e-reader, it will require collaborative partnerships over some projects to ensure viability.
Threats. Barnes and Noble does have several threats to consider when maintaining their customer base and to ensure their sustainability in the long run.
- There is a huge push to become a paperless society because paper comes from trees, and trees affect the environment. Eventually print books may become less and less accessible.
- Less and less people are reading due to technological advances. Books are becoming less popular and streaming services with hundreds of movies are a better price point for families.
- Amazon is an immediate threat as they started their product line with the Kindle, but have moved into tablets, smart home devices. Amazon offers their own music streaming service, which in turn places challenge on manufacturers of music. Barnes & Noble offers music, but it is not in an electronic format. As technology changes, this is an immediate threat as seen with other music stores.
- Cheaper prices are a huge threat to the financial stability of Barnes and Noble because people only have so much money. People are seeing other services needed increasing such as healthcare costs, and people only have fixed amount of money to spend on books. Many will go for the cheaper price offered at other entities.
The immediate alternatives for consideration from Barnes & Noble are price matching for their books because it would encourage customers to purchase the product within the store on the same day, vice shopping for a cheaper product. However, price match for a specific competitor, such as if a book is listed at Amazon for $16.00, but it is $20.00 at Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble should offer the product at the lower price.
Another alternative is for using the Starbucks Café to draw in customers by offering a free drink and treat with the purchase of a product over $25.00. Essentially it is a win-win for Barnes & Noble and for Starbucks because there are consistent customers coming into the store.
The e-reader is increasing in popularity as many companies have a brand, a type, and it is saturating the marketplace. Recently, Nook has partnered with Samsung to offer a product that allows for members to utilize google play, which is wonderful, but it is still rather expensive and has no value when attempting to trade in the product. It is recommended that if Barnes & Noble would like to take on Walmart and their new e-reader, consider a collaborative partnership with Target. Offer free memberships with the purchase of the Nook and offer users 1 free book a month, 1 free movie, or one free album because customers will always go for the bigger, better deal. Never under-estimate the power of a great buy by having a customer purchase and download the book, but have a hard copy mailed to their residence.
The entire nation is moving towards healthy eating and Starbucks is great because coffee and reading go together, but more and more people may not enjoy the taste of coffee. Consider putting a juice bar into the a few stores as a trial. Healthy options will increase the traffic into the store and will possibly increase the in-store sales.
- Barnes & Noble (2018). 2018 Barnes & Noble Annual Report. Retrieved from http://investors.barnesandnobleinc.com/static-files/30698ead-afc7-4da7-919c-e597e7e4524c
- Iacobucci, D. (2018). Marketing Management. (5th. ed.). Stamford, CT. Cengage.
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