So, when you compare Amazon to Barnes and Noble or Borders (just on book selling), how are they fundamentally different?
All three sell online and, while Amazon is still the best, the other two have reasonably easy interfaces for selling books. What is left? Physical stores. B&N and Borders have the liability and asset of a physical retail presence in many communities across the country. However, they fail horribly to the leverage the two together to improve overall sales.
If you are looking for a physical retail store, it is likely because you want to buy a book right away. If you are willing to wait a few days, you can just order online. But if you want it right now, say before you catch a flight that afternoon, you want to know if the store near you is carrying the title before making the trek out there. Making retail inventory available for search by store seems like a no-brainer. It relieves floor staff from having to answer as many phone calls and enables customers to find out if they can buy more immediately.
However, Borders buries this feature several levels down in their site and B&N doesn’t even offer it. What a wasted opportunity.
The ideal interface, I think, would be to set a cookie for the user’s zip code at some point and then offer local retail inventory results along with online inventory.
Gee, that sounds simple. Why don’t they do it? My guess would be that their performance measures don’t reward cross-selling between physical and online operations.