Weekend visit to Crossword book store indicated plight of all such brick-n-mortar book stores against Amazons/Flipcarts around the world.

As it was evident across the store, while customers enjoyed browsing books in relaxed and comfortable setting, it generally did not result in meaningful purchase in the store. Most of these purchases likely end up on eCommerce sites such as Amazon/Flipcart.

If you look at the recent financials for Crossword (now part of Shopper’s Stop Group), it made losses of Rs. 7.16 Cr in FY2015 vs Rs. 3.89 Cr in FY2014. While revenues are growing marginally (Rs. 88 Cr to 90 Cr), it is not making any money out of it.

While they have addressed the problem of revenue with lot of non-book items (often tagged as Impulse Purchases) in the store, core business is still under threat.

Only reason for that is – Customer has moved to ‘Digital’ in terms of his buying behaviour while Crossword is still doing the catch-up.

Book Buying over the internet  has only increased over time as figures from early 2013 shows around 43% book buying in US happened over eCommerce while share of large chains fell around 18 %.

There is also some good news in store as NYTIMES reported recently that people have started moving towards Print than e-Books. Though, it does not mean that they will buy print/hard-cover books from the physical stores like Crossword.

Quick look at digital influence of Crossword brand shows several key areas to address.

  1. In terms of SEO/SEM (Search Engine Marketing), Crossword fails absymally. Same is for category search across the web.
  2. In terms of web Advertising or cross-platform initiatives, there is hardly any campaign run on-line to entice users.
  3. Email marketing/earned media in terms of books launches or author connects within specific cities are sporadic.
  4. Crossword.in website offers selection of books from their catalogue. Do not even see whether there is mobile app for users to consider.
  5. Analytics engine to use targeted marketing (re-targeting) is not in place since there is no specific recommendation as per user profile/interests.
  6. There is no chat support for Customer service. Would be big drawback especially as content move towards mobile.
  7. Crossword does not have Mobile Site/App in place , so I cannot manage my reading lists/purchases or check reviews online.
  8. Today’s customers are touched by digital (upto 30%) even as they browse through the store. Crossword’s physical stores are what they are – just Physical. No digital option to check reviews or order on-line in store.
  9. Social media presence – mininal to absolute no.

I think, vision for Crossword still holds true and is enticing to readers all over only if they bring ‘Digital’ to the centre of all such interactions.

‘Crossword aims to be a point of cultural and social interaction where authors and poets hold court, where children are regaled, where people gravitate to be informed, to be entertained, even enlightened. The name embodies the vision of Crossword as a place and space for people who seek information, knowledge or just the pleasure of reading.’

Hope that Crossword will  learn from BORDERS soon.