Aussie bookshop opens virtual store

Summary:The move to electronic books has dogged bookstores over the last decade, but now one Australian bookstore is fighting fire with fire by integrating its online and physical stores.

The move to electronic books has dogged bookstores over the last decade, but now one Australian bookstore is fighting fire with fire by integrating its online and physical stores.

Virtual bookshop

The bookstore with no books: meet the Co-op Bookshop's new virtual bookstore.
(Credit: Co-op Bookshop)

The Co-op Bookshop is currently enjoying its 54th year selling textbooks to Australia's students around the country and now has over 41 stores. Every semester, the store is besieged by students trying to source their requisite supply of textbooks for their new classes, with lines often spilling out of the door onto the street.

Chief customer officer, Greg Smith, has now come up with a way to solve the company's traffic problems while driving sales into its online division: by plastering a wall full of QR codes onto the store's window and letting students shop with their mobiles.

"This is just the beginning of our push into 'a new retail experience' for our customers," Smith said in a statement today.

"The 'window shop' experience is part of our strategic expansion model that blends traditional bricks and mortar with digital and mobile. Whilst other bookshops are closing down, we are growing thanks to these new multi-channel initiatives and technologies," he added.

The window shop is currently being piloted at the company's Macquarie University store, and plans are in motion to deploy the 15-metre long, two-metre high wall to the company's other 40 stores around Australia.

The wall features 36 textbooks from the top 25 course subjects for third and second year students and purchased by scanning QR codes.

Woolworths also recently trialled a similar initiative that saw shoppers scanning the QR codes of its most popular products to purchase them and have them shipped to a customer's house.

Smith told ZDNet Australia in an interview that not only is the Co-op looking to market itself as a multi-channel book vendor, it's also looking to offer tablet devices to take advantage of the digital products it had on offer, revealing plans to sell both the upcoming Apple iPad 3 and a Samsung tablet in the coming months.

Smith said that the Co-op would carry the iPad 3 as soon as it was available from Apple at the discount price extended to education vendors.

"The whole idea of making textbooks available across multiple platforms is clearly our vision, hence the multi-channel approach," he said.

Smith also revealed that he has today signed off on the Co-op's mobile apps, which include a QR code reader. The apps will be on the market in the coming months, he added.

Disclosure: Luke Hopewell's wife is a staff member at the Co-op Bookshop.

Topics: Mobility, E-Commerce, Innovation


A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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