Frustrating your customer is not smart thinking

Sometimes it can make sense to make it hard for your customers to buy. At the luxury end of the market waiting lists, limited distribution and high prices all add up to exclusivity and desirability.

For the mass market, it makes no sense at all. So I can only assume that Waterstones sees business books as a luxury.

I like to keep up to date with marketing thought and periodically that means buying the latest marketing and business books.

When I know what I want, I buy from Amazon because it’s cheaper. When I don’t know what I want, other than inspiration and serendipity, I like to browse in a real bookshop. Browse and then buy because, while showrooming might make sense for large value items, when you are looking to pick up a few books and want them right now, it’s a pain.

However at some point since my last expedition in search of inspiration, Waterstones has merged its business books section into something called ‘Smart Thinking’. This includes topics like popular psychology, popular economics, those bizarre books about mathematical concepts I keep buying and never read and popular science. There are no sub-sections and it’s all in alphabetical order by author. So if you want a marketing book, you either have to know which marketing book you want (in which case, Amazon), or you have to browse thousands of books with quirky titles that could be about anything. Frankly, I can’t keep my head tilted to read sideways that long without needing an urgent trip to the osteopath.

According to a bookseller at one of my local Waterstones, they made this change because business books weren’t selling well. Apparently, making it almost impossible to impulse purchase business books is going to help them sell more.

I’m not sure I’d call this ‘Smart Thinking’. In the meantime, I’m off to Blackwells.



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