Sometimes cutting-edge marketing is found in the unlikeliest of places. This past weekend, CNN Money ran a story about Strand Bookstore, located in the East Village of NYC. The CNN piece noted how Strand, one of the oldest and biggest used bookstores on the planet, is doing quite well in the face of a prolonged economic stagnation and a continual shift to digital media. Curious, I checked out the company’s online profile and was duly impressed. With a vibrant eCommerce site and a solid presence on social media, Strand Bookstore is a great case study of a traditional brand using integrated digital marketing to prosper in a time of great change.
VISUAL AND INTERACTIVE
The first thing I noticed about Strand’s website was a lot of interactive photos and videos- visual eye candy that consumers love to eat up.
The next thing I saw was a big, colorful advertisement for the company’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide on the main homepage slider. Clicking on the image, I was brought to an interactive eMagazine that looks and feels like you are holding a real life, high-res catalog in your hands. This piece of content must’ve been built with tablets in mind (as a side note, I was unable to open The Guide on the Strand’s mobile website, but who knows, it could’ve been a SNAFU with my Droid phone). Each item in the eMag is clickable, bringing the user to the site’s checkout page. Pretty slick.
DYNAMIC AND PERSONAL
Next, I decided to go to the About Strand page, where I was greeted with a two-minute embedded video tour given by Nancy Bass Wyden, co-owner and granddaughter of Strand’s founder. From a branding perspective, this was a nice touch, especially given that the store is still family owned. In the video, Nancy gives a personal tour of the store, each second summing up Strand’s unique value proposition in a personalized manner. Much better than static written content (which they have, too), the about us video was a great way to delineate the brand’s core message in a dynamic and personalized manner.
Speaking of personalization, the site’s homepage has a Staff Pick of the Week section comprised of a photo of a staff member recommending a particular book. In it, I learned that Staff Library Assistant Alex G. recommends Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. As one might expect, when you click on the pic of the book you are redirected to the checkout page. Nice touch.
Right next to the Staff Pick of the Week is The Author’s Bookshelf, another great marketing initiative. Sporting the tag, “Ever wonder what’s on your favorite author’s bookshelf?,” users who click on the link can peruse the literary proclivities of a number of established authors; many even have personalized introductory notes (where some of the more enterprising authors can be found plugging Strand as if they were lifelong friends), followed by their author bios. Talk about building brand loyalty while providing content that speaks to the wants and needs of your target audience - The Author’s Bookshelf section is awash with integrated digital marketing two-for-ones. Of course, the visual thumbnail photos of the authors’ recommended books link to the checkout page. Snappy.
LOCAL AND SOCIAL
In terms of SEO, when I typed in “Strand” in my Google Chrome URL, the bookstore site came up first in page rank. I was impressed and admittedly a bit surprised by this, given that the bookstore shares names with a popular hotel in NYC and a famed street in London. When I typed in “Strand Bookstore, the company owned the first page of results (always a good thing). Popular SoLoMo sites like Foursquare, Yelp, and TripAdvisor -so critical to brands with a bricks and mortar presence - appeared on the first page. Heck, Strand even has a Wikipedia page.
The site also contains social share buttons linking to solid presences on Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook, there is a lot of visual interaction and well-coordinated messaging with the website. The company’s tweets are mainly promotional; given it has over 20,000 followers, it seems like Strand is using Twitter as a social newsfeed for upcoming events.
Strand’s main social strength lies in its use of social video, anchored by a robust YouTube presence, which is used to promote its in-store Events series that features interviews and book signings with notable authors. At the time of writing, Strand had amassed 555 videos on its YouTube Channel. The Events series is promoted on the company homepage with a large Watch Events on YouTube CTA; no missing that one. Likewise, an Event Photos CTA promotes static photos of the Events series.
CONTINUITY AND CHANGE
If Strand Bookstore is already a well-recognized brand in NYC, at least among the literary set, the company’s eCommerce web and social media presence is broadening its reach globally. TV spots on CNN don’t hurt either (As a side note, for those who think TV is dead, it isn’t. It is morphing, though. I saw the CNN Money piece over the Internet on CNN.TV. Television’s integration with the Internet, social media, and online video will continue to blur the lines between discrete media until they are all but indistinguishable).
Personalization is rife throughout Strand’s website. The human element, even in a digitized format, goes a long way toward helping brands form connections that matter. Once the connection is made, integrated digital marketing tactics such as interactive eMags and author recommendations ease the path to the sale.
Speaking of which, I decided to give Strand’s checkout process a spin. Ever the sucker for a belabored Latin book title, I chose Albrecht Durer’s De Symmetria Partium In Rectis Formis Humanorum Corporum, Libri In Latino Conuersi [with] De Varietate Figurarum Et Flexuris Partium Ac Gestib Imaginum Libri Duoa - a bargain at just $20,000. After making it all the way through the checkout process, I demurred, wondering what my wife, and my credit card company, would say to such a purchase.
Oh well. Given the title, I have a hunch Durer’s work will be around for a while; given the company's unique application of integrated digital marketing, I have a feeling Strand Bookstore will be too.
Image courtsey of Avant-Guardian Musings: by Dorthy Barenscott