Barnes & Noble: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

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Barnes & Noble
With mobile apps, the world's largest bookseller has rustled up a new revenue stream and sales channel. It's even managed to beat the first-to-market Amazon Kindle app in the App Store.

Barnes & Noble released two iPhone apps this summer, the eReader and Bookstore, and has since earned 1 million downloads, the top free-app slot in the App Store's book category and a bump in sales.

"We've seen a surprising and great increase in sales of eBooks, physical books, music and DVDs because of Bookstore," said creative director and head of digital products for Barnes & Noble.com Doug Gottlieb, who masterminded the apps with the brand's director of mobile, Miles Williams. The company declined to share specific sales figures.

In March, the company acquired e-bookseller Fictionwise to give the digital book business another go after a failed attempt in 2000. By July, it launched its e-bookstore and the supporting eReader app with more than 700,000 titles, viewable on a range of devices.

Beyond growing revenue, the bookseller's app strategy also intends to improve upon customers' in-store experience with technology. With the Bookstore app released in June, users can search or snap a photo of a book in the store to retrieve product details, reviews and customer ratings.

Doug Gottlieb
Doug Gottlieb, creative director and head of digital products, Barnes & Noble.com
The Bookstore app provides access to all review and supplemental information on Barnes & Noble items, and a mobile method to purchase books, music and movies. To side-step shipping costs, customers can order titles for pickup at the nearest Barnes & Noble store. Or, if an app user is just looking to browse actual shelves, the app has a store locator and directions.

The retailer leveraged its more than 700 U.S. bookstores to promote the app through signage and offers in store cafes, like coupons within the app for free coffee. Employees were also encouraged to evangelize for the apps, which proved to be the most effective method for spreading their popularity, Mr. Gottlieb said.

"It's something that's going to translate very nicely to our recent Nook eBook reader strategy," he said, referring to the device announced in October.

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