Why Niche Was Bad For Barnes And Noble.
Barnes And Noble are about to start closing 10 stores a year over the next 10 years.
However in the past they closed on average 15 stores a year, but opened an average of 30.
Many people will say Yay! to the demise of these large booksellers because they fueled the closure of local bookshops.
Many people will say Oh No! because these larger bookstores offer a larger index.
For me, it is not about the closing down and who won what. It is really about the reinventing yourself constantly and keeping up with the news.
Now I thought that Barnes and Noble would have got a beating over these years, but they haven’t. In fact only 20 of their stores are unprofitable.
What Barnes and Noble are actually doing is creating an atmosphere.
You see, many people go into Barnes and Noble to read in comfort, to have a drink and to munch something light whilst relaxing.
The bookshop has in essence become a place to congregate, rather than to read books.
I would love it if they offered magazines for free and then charged the magazine publishers a fee to list there, because that is what people are doing.
The e-readers have affected the whole system. Barnes and Noble came out with everything that everyone else did…but what were they going to do?
Barnes and Noble have a choice. Either continue doing what everyone else is doing or do something slightly different.
So they go down the coffee shop route. Which is cool, but now you are going after McDonalds, Starbucks etc. So now you have to think how can I differentiate away from them as well!
You can’t outsmart Amazon online, but you can use Amazon to your advantage.
Amazon wants to open off-line stores, which is great but also an awesome opportunity for Barnes and Noble. They have that infrastructure…so why not give out their ereader to customers and then offer their online store (totally free books though in store) AND also offer Amazons books using an automatic affiliate fee?
Sometimes going up hill is too tiring and inefficient and in some ways fighting a loosing battle. Sure if data states that going up hill will create a winner, you do it. But in most cases swimming against the waves of reason really tend to open up your mind to think “what on earth are we doing?”
And when that occurs you know that something is going to go wrong.
This is exactly the same as online promoting. You get many people thinking that marketing is the right way to go to make money. But you are fighting up hill all the time, scraping for visitors, trying your best to carve out a path.
In many cases, if not all, the marketers started by networking with other people and used them to propel themselves forward.
Why go up against things which are anti your favor?
Niche is sometimes the way to go, but also multi niching is sometimes a better bet. This is where you take one niche which has a lot of audience and combine it with other niches which have a lot of audience. A bigger pool of people all related to each niche.
So we have Barnes and Noble. The niches that they are targeting?
- offline book buyers
- electronic book buyers
- paper book buyers
- cafe readers
- the quick snack eaters
These are just a few of the niches. So note that Barnes and Noble isn’t just a paper book only place. They are adding additional niches to their existing core so that each niche can be comfortable with each other.
But they can not go too wide because then they are into niches which they do not know, or want to know of. So offering a range of 10 drink types is much better than offering a range of 100.
Sounds obvious right? Sure, but when you have Google only search people online, their business must be very careful. There is so much competition that they tend to go overboard with the same niche.
Google is a great search engine, but multi niching that aspect wouldn’t do them any harm.
So Bing and Yahoo! search? How about Adwords and Adsense?
If you are the go-to Google person, then search is not the only thing that people want to know. Other things start to drip into the conversation. So this is going wide and tall.
So we are all taught to be niche. But I have found that sometimes niche can be too niche and that you can loose out on sales and customers because you haven’t offered anything that people really want, which is the whole package of information.
Technically, Barnes and Noble was doing exactly that, they were niche, they stayed and sold paper books. But look where that led them to! If they told the person who advised to stay with paper books to go away, Barns and Noble could have been Amazon. So now they are reinventing themselves at a price. Because they were too niche.