Brick-and-mortar bookstores in China roll out innovative delivery service

By Cao Xuemeng, People’s Daily
A click on the phone and you will receive your wanted books in 30 minutes. Now in China, what’s being delivered is not only food, but also books. 
Recently, Beijing and China’s leading online food delivery platform Meituan Dianping reached a framework agreement on cross-industry collaboration, intending to facilitate development of brick-and-mortar bookstores by an innovative book delivery service.
The agreement was joined by a first batch of 72 bookstores, including CITIC Books, the book chain of Chinese conglomerate CITIC Group, and Beijing Book Building, one of China’s state-owned retail bookstores.
Similar services have also been explored by bookstores in other parts of China, including Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Chongqing.
In fact, book delivery is not something new, for some bookstores have tested water several years ago. Tongren bookstore in Changchun, capital of northeast China’s Jilin province, launched service on Meituan Dianping in 2017, promising one-hour delivery. Besides, 50 outlets of Yanjiyou Bookstore, a popular bookstore chain in China, have started a “take-away book” activity on Chinese food delivery platform Eleme in October 2018.
Nevertheless, the recent framework agreement on the collaboration between brick-and-mortar bookstores and Meituan Dianping marks the first large-scale cooperationof its kind in the country.
Many bookstores in China has suspended business because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. With the country making great efforts to facilitate resumption of work and production, bookstores are restoring operation. However, it takes time for them to return to normal traffic.
In an effort to help bookstores tide over the difficulty, many local governments have rolled out favorable policies to support development of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and the bookstores are also actively exploring ways to survive the crisis. 
Through cooperation with food delivery platforms, brick-and-mortar bookstores can save cost, increase sales, and, to some extent, expand marketing channels, create constant exposure, and benefit offline business. Otherwise, they have to deal with limitations of manpower and other resources in establishing new online business platforms in a short time.
Be it an attempt emerging in this special time, the book delivery service that has won favor with so many bookstores, enriched people’s choices, and also helped extend the influence of bookstores.
In an effort to better boost business of brick-and-mortar bookstores, some food delivery platforms have provided them with “free admission”, traffic subsidies, operation instruction and other favorable measures.
In recent years, some brick-and-mortar bookstores in China have started to expand business by adding cultural and creative products and catering service to their portfolios.
However, it is still a test for the bookstores to choose the proper products to launch on delivery platforms and to make marketing strategies.
There is huge space for exploration in such aspects as enhancing advantages of thematic features, improving shopping experience, and better addressing demands before book delivery service secures long-term development.
In the age of the Internet, more and more brick-and-mortar bookstores have made efforts to seek development and transformation via new approaches, such as developing multiple forms of business, creating space for cultural activities, as well as promoting sales through live streaming and book delivery service.
From waiting for customers at bookstores to sending books to their doorsteps, the change in book consumption brought about by the innovative book delivery service is expected to blaze a trail for online-offline integration, and meanwhile boost a reading boom in cities.

A woman in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality reads a book in a bookstore, March 18, 2020. With continuous efforts to maintain strict epidemic prevention and control measures while promoting resumption of work and production, brick-and-mortar bookstores in Chongqing have resumed business one after another. Some bookstores in the city have rolled out book delivery services to better meet the demands of consumers. (Photo by Sun Kaifang/People’s Daily Online)

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