Barnes & Noble Reimagining Physical and Digital Shopping

Barnes & Noble has emerged from the crisis that was the digital book revolution not only still intact — unlike major competitor Borders — but thriving in the new physical + digital environment. Over the past four years the digital book business has ballooned from $400 million annually to over $3 billion and Barnes & Noble has been willing and able to adjust to new market conditions and emerged as the segment leader.

While B&N is surviving and flourishing in the new omnichannel world the retailer is not resting on its laurels. In fact, during a recent investor's day conference call the retailer announced aggressive plans to not only begin piloting a new store concept, but redesigned digital platforms as well.

During fiscal 2017 Barnes & Noble will be introducing four new concept stores throughout the U.S., designed to emphasis the retailer's best qualities and create a community epicenter.

"The new stores will first and foremost continue to be community spaces for customers to learn, discover and grow, where books remain the hero," said Jaime Carey, President, development and restaurant group. "We designed these stores with contemporary aesthetics and geared them for discovery."

The concept stores will feature increased customer seating areas and a new mobile experience for both booksellers and customers. A new mobile app will provide customers a digital layout of the store and help them locate books in-store. Booksellers' devices will be loaded with assisted selling capabilities that will enable them to help customers from anywhere on the floor. Customers will also be able to text booksellers for assistance.

In addition, the concept stores will feature larger cafes with a contemporary aesthetic, expanded food and beverage offerings including wine and beer, and table-side service.

On the digital front the retailer is working on new functionality to improve the virtual shopping experience, including a complete redesign of the front end of the retailer's website in time for holiday shopping 2016.

"Mobile is an incredible driver of the e-commerce business, of course; but there are several channels that we're focused on in terms of digital," said Fred Argir, VP, chief digital officer. "On the desktop side, the desktop experience will focus on discovery, browsing, account administration and content consumption.

"On the tablet side, we'll deliver a simplified version of the desktop site, but we'll work at maximizing and optimizing the space of the physical device with an optimized digital experience. On the mobile side, we will focus on the experience of quick purchase, of store location, price comparison and mobile optimized pages for e-mail. We're focused on streamlining the entire e-commerce experience, thoughtful architecture of the entire digital ecosystem and correct points of connectivity for the journey. We'll also be working to provide a deep content experience and improved product discovery."

In addition, the online product pages are going to get a facelift to help reduce clutter. The new platform will allow the retailer to help its customers navigate to the products that are most important to them. Some of the functionality the retailer has added or is in the process of adding to its digital offering include: save-it-for-later capabilities; shopping cart sync between the website and the app experiences; barcode scan to direct product page access; and wish list capabilities across the ecosystems.