A Norwich indie has opened up a completely virtual version of its bookshop, in what its owners are billing a world first.
Customers can now tour a 3D version of Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, much like estate agent sites have offered during the pandemic. The virtual version includes e-commerce hyperlinks that pop out of shelves, event information and games.
Co-owner Dan and Leanne Fridd, who works with the Booksellers Association to help other indies with their online presence, said other stores could follow suit.
Dan Fridd explained: “While we will enjoy being the first, the idea is that any shop can do it and this is a great solution for people missing or wanting to discover our shop who are not able or comfortable coming in to the physical premises. I think, but I’m not sure, that this is a world first.”
Fridd said the e-commerce side is designed as an app and every indie currently on Edelweiss Analytics will be able to turn it on, saving them the trouble of setting up a website themselves. The technology behind the e-commerce is powered by Above The Treeline. Fulfilment will currently be direct from the bookshop, but work is underway to integrate with Gardners home delivery.
He said: “This is different and complements bookshop.org and is not intended as an alternative. We as a bookshop are signing up for both. Currently we dispatch the books and keep the full margin. The 3D portion requires someone to come and take the pictures, but it is pretty affordable.”
The store is only one year old and Fridd said he felt it was imperative to prepare in the event of a second lockdown hitting his business, while also providing access for those unable to shop there physically.
He said: “We want to shout about the lovely space we have and the artsy events we do, and this seemed like the way to do it. We are also aware that our downstairs room isn’t accessible to many groups of customers with disabilities, and being a listed building, we can’t do anything about that. Even the steps at the front of the building are offputting. Giving disabled customers the ability to browse here was at the forefront.
"We have been doing virtual Zoom tours with school classes to help them pick books for their libraries but this will enable classes to tour and choose without having to arrange a Zoom with one of our booksellers. Engaging with schools is so vital to a bookshop that markets itself as a children's bookshop, even though we stock a lot of books for grown-ups.”