Blackwell’s is setting up a new digital development office with nine new members of staff. The flurry of digital activity includes a new app.
The Blackwell’s app is available for Android and Apple devices and will enable customers to shop at Blackwell’s using their tablets and mobile phones. It was created after Blackwell’s noted a significant spike in its Nook tablet sales. The app includes a function to enable customers to send the bill to someone else to pay, targeting the student market.
Matthew Cashmore, Blackwell’s digital director, said: “Nook tablet sales are storming. We have really seen a shift from students using laptops to tablets this year. We are shifting thousands of Nook e-readers—at £29, Nook has really hit the sweet spot on price and they are the number one bestselling item at Blackwell’s bar none—however, the tablet is in the top five.” Cashmore said of the feature enabling students to nominate their parents to pay for their books: “We think it is really cool and will be quite popular.”
Blackwell’s has also undertaken a recent revamp of its website, creating individual shopfronts for each of its physical stores around the country. As part of its intention to operate as a decentralised business, Blackwell’s shops are encouraged to upload their own offers, promotions and events onto the website, with any sales achieved through individual online shopfronts attributed to that store. “We wanted to give shops the ability to shout about their stores,” Cashmore said. “We also want shops to get the credit for the sales they make online.”
Meanwhile, the company has also opened a small office on London’s “Silicon Roundabout” near Old Street, London. Nine new members of staff are joining Blackwell’s Shoreditch team, including Kjell Eldor, former digital projects manager at Octopus Publishing, who will take the title of Blackwell’s digital publishing manager. Eldor is one of The Bookseller's Rising Stars 2013. The company has also hired Simon Kisner, who has been involved in projects at digital creative agencies in London as well as being a former producer for BBC Learning's Skillswise and RaW websites.
Cashmore said: “It is a development office. It is what I am calling my little skunkworks project”—‘skunkworks’ being a term for a small group of people who develop a project for the sake of radical innovation. He declined to reveal further details.