Introduction

The goal of CirclePOS is to make local bookstores as good online as they are in-store. Local bookstores have the killer advantage of being just down the road and offer a genuinely personal relationship with local customers. Local bookshops will prevail over central giants if given the right tools.

This article focuses on specific features, including how it's designed and integrated into the inventory system to provide customers with a similar level of service online as they would have in-store. We have another article on why the CirclePOS website is laid out like it is.

Most importantly, the website is integrated into the inventory system. Syncing or updating is not needed as the same database is used online and in-store meaning data does not need to be transferred. To this end it’s better to think of the CirclePOS as another store Point Of Sale (POS) rather than a website outside the store.

Giving you the tech to keep up with the giants

Our aim is to give local bookstores the technology and data needed to match the giants. While this is aspirational and ever evolving, the following is some of what we have now.

  • DIY customisable

    A Content Management System (CMS) is included with CirclePOS. It uses a template optimised to sell books but also allows you to customise the website to reflect your brand and style.Users can upload logos and backgrounds, set colours and fonts and add static content such as contact and about us pages. Titles can be easily selected and adjusted, along with any categories you wish to hero. The system takes care of putting what you have most of at the top of each category.website designed specially for local bookstores

  • Rich title information

    CirclePOS has very rich stock information as all shops on the system contribute to it. If you join the Circle community you get to benefit from this (and contribute). It means that most titles on your website will look great with an image and description and often with videos and reviews.

  • Search engine optimised & Google marketplace compatible

    Onpage Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is taken care of as part of the service including compatibility with Google marketplace. See more about on page and off page SEO in this article.

  • Search as you type

    All Circle websites employ ‘search as you type’ which displays image and stock information as you search. This makes searching more effective, especially when the spelling of an author or title is uncertain. The search field covers author, title and isbn simultaneously, while also supporting special characters.

    website designed specially for local bookstores

    Optimised for selling to locals

    • Real Time stock availability

      All eCommerce websites showcase products and provide a cart system for purchasing them.

      The challenge for local bookstores is stock levels. The web giants have unlimited warehouse space, local bookstores are constrained by limited shelf space. What’s on the shelf in a local store is a carefully curated selection of the best items for the local audience. They need to know exactly what is available before making the effort to come down to get it.

      It becomes even more challenging when ensuring stock really is 'available.' Numerous factors affect availability beyond sales and purchases—holds, customer orders, returns etc all influence available stock. All of this needs to be kept up to date in real-time. Customers often check availability on their phones and come down to the store immediately.

      What is available (really available) is a complex array of functions that are very hard to incorporate into an ecommerce system that is not also your inventory system.
      website designed specially for local bookstores

    • Wide variety of payment options - not just credit cards

      Most ‘eCommerce’ sites are oriented around credit cards but this does not always suit local bookstores. There are often account customers, some customers pay in store when picking up and others prefer to pay by bank transfer to avoid fees. Credit cards, paypal etc are part of the mix but so are all these other more local options.

    • Click and collect

      Click and collect is a classic brick and mortar feature. It enables consumers to reserve what they want before they make the effort to come down. Knowing what the local bookshop has and being able to reserve it can be the difference between shopping local or going to a giant. Of course reserves like this can also be done over the phone but that is time consuming and inconvenient for many including store staff.

    • Participate in pre-orders

      Pre-ordering has become a big part of online book selling and publisher promotions. It is hugely helpful for assessing demand ahead of release and so is important that local stores are not cut out. With this feature and yourbookstore.io publishers are able to refer customers to local stores as well as the central giants.

    • Different online selling scenarios to suit the way you like to trade

      Local bookstores operate in very different ways including how they like to trade online. Some stores are happy to take orders (and payment) for items that they do not have and will refund if they can not. Others only want enquiries to avoid disappointing customers and the hassle of refunds. If this approach is for you a ‘notify me’ button replaces the ‘order’ button when stock is zero.

    • Integrated discounts, promotions and loyalty

      The inventory system (like many others) supports discounts, promotions and loyalty but unlike other systems all of these work seamlessly online. You set these up once in store and customers will get the discount regardless of whether they shop in store or online
      Loyalty works seamlessly at POS and website cart. A customer can earn loyalty dollars when they purchase in store and cash them in online and vice versa.
      The loyalty system is a key tool in reaching out to pull more customers back to your shop. The inventory system is able to, for example, give you a list of all the customers that have purchased a certain author. When the next book is coming out you can then email them with a link mentioning they have loyalty dollars to put towards it. This is both great service and highly effective. See the dedicated article on how to think about loyalty and make the best of a loyalty programme.

    • Integrated gift cards

      CirclePOS has an integrated gift card system that supports both physical and digital gift cards. These work seamlessly instore and online. Online customers can generate digital cards for themselves or as gifts for friends and family. If it is a gift the card will be sent directly to the recipient with a greeting message and will work in store and online and well as across a group of stores in multi store situations.

    • Integrated wish list system

      Customer orders are a big part of running a local bookshop, the website wish list system feeds into this. Wish lists are a place for customers to collect books they like and share with their friends but wish lists in CirclePOS have a unique feature that enables customers to ask store staff to notify them when a book comes back into stock. It is the online version of an in store customer enquiry and is unique to bricks and mortar stores that can’t hold and do not try to list all the stock in the world. In the back office you get a list of customers requesting titles and from these you generate customer orders.

    • Order and account status

      Account and order status is available to customers through the website saving time on phone calls. There are also exports for the likes of schools and libraries to make it easy for them to place large orders and then export the line items to their own systems.

    • ISBN scan field in the cart

      This is for customers that know exactly what they want, typically schools and libraries. Instead of having to search that catalogue they can simply scan their orders into the cart. The feature allows items to be pulled in that you have not stocked in the past.
      website designed specially for local bookstores

    • Barcoded catalogue generator

      Sometimes paper is just better! The website enables shop staff or customers to select a category and generate printable versions with barcodes in back list, thumbnail and order form formats. This is excellent for institutions like schools and libraries.

    • Multi store portal site

      A special portal site is available for multi store groups. This site gathers and displays all the items for sale in group stores along with stock availability information. It then directs customers to the closest local store in the group that has what they are looking for.

    website designed specially for local bookstores

    Conclusion

    The CirclePOS website site is much more than an eCommerce store tacked on to an in store inventory system. It is tightly integrated and is as much a part of the inventory system as the POS. It has local bookstore in its DNA. Its features reflect the unique needs of local bookstores and is the tool that enables local booksellers to reach out beyond the bricks and mortar to their customers.


    Useful additional references

    See other articles on specific features and how they can help bookstores

    Meet some of the stores using CirclePOS, and see what makes them tick

    If you would like to learn more about CirclePOS, email sales@circlesoft.net or book a demo