‘Small Data,’ Big Impact, with Martin Lindstrom
“The way people buy books today is completely different from how they bought
them five or 10 years ago,” Martin Lindstrom says. He is an expert on branding
and the psychology of consumers, and he’s the author of seven books, including
Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends (St. Martin’s, Feb.). For his
keynote, Lindstrom will show booksellers how to maximize their strengths by
paying attention to seemingly insignificant social cues relating to their customers’
lifestyles and behaviors.
Although Lindstrom’s talk takes its name from his forthcoming book, it could easily be titled “Bookstore on Main
Street Makeover.” He will take a page from his ongoing Today
show gig, “Main Street Makeover,” in which he and his team
turn around a business in 24 hours. Booksellers from five
stores around the country who asked for his help will join him
on stage to receive his “very targeted” recommendations based
on his observations of consumer behavior in 77 countries over
the past 25 years.
Indie bookstores “cannot compete on price or on volume,”
Lindstrom says. “[They] have to compete on experience and on
insight.” Smaller booksellers succeed by “selling their passion”
to customers, who are “buying the passion as much as the books.”
Though most consumers who buy and read books are
women, according to Lindstrom’s research, the way they shop
has changed. In years past, teenage girls would visit book-
stores with parents or friends; now they visit in groups of four
to six and stay together as they browse. “It’s a group book-
buying experience,” Lindstrom says. But one girl inevitably ends up as the leader
of each pack, and she “literally is controlling the other girls” when it comes to what
books are purchased—if any are.
And, Lindstrom says, young women prefer a more tactile shopping experience.
“This generation is craving sensory input,” he says. “They want to touch much
more.” If a teenage girl picks up a book in a bookstore, she is 30% more likely to
purchase it than someone her age was 10 years ago, he says. With 41% of book
sales based on sight and 31% on touch, booksellers should do everything they can
to make the purchase of books “a sensual experience.”
Lindstrom, however, is one of the 23% of book lovers who shop with their noses.
He has been shopping in bookstores since his childhood in Denmark. “The smell
of books for me is almost like the feeling you are going into the bedroom or the
office of the author and feeling [he or she] was there,” he says. —Claire Kirch
See Lindstrom’s breakfast keynote on Sunday, January 24, 7:45–9: 15 a.m.,
Plaza Ballroom A, B, C.
Eleven years ago, the American
Booksellers Association held its
first Winter Institute to provide
a warm, intimate setting where
booksellers could learn from
each other about best practices.
This year’s three keynote speakers
are carrying on that tradition
with a series of talks to stimulate
booksellers to think in a new
way about what they do and how
they do it.
Aspartofhis Sundaymorning presentation, consumer expert Martin Lindstrom, author of the soon-to-be- published Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover
Huge Trends, selected five booksellers for
an onstage business review. “Be warned,
I’m tough,” he wrote in the introduction
to his bookseller challenge on his web-
site, “but most importantly I’m brutally
honest (and yes, it tends to pay off).”
The title of poet Kwame Alexander’s
Tuesday breakfast talk is “The Idea
Business: A Life Spent Writing and
Selling Books.” Alexander, who received
a 2015 Newbery Medal for The Crossover,
a novel in verse, regards promotion as an
important part of being an author.