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“Barnes & Noble is in trouble,” a headline in The Washington Post stated last week, “but bookstores aren’t doomed just yet.”

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Nebraska Book Company uses cloud technology to successfully swim against the current of failing bookstores.

Strategies for saving the New York-based bookseller range from concentrating on its 674 profitable stores to jettisoning its Nook program and taking the retail operation private, The Post reported. Whatever Barnes & Noble does, it’s clear that the current business model is broken.

The same could be said for brick-and-mortar bookstores worldwide. Schemes to rescue the industry include transforming bookstores into cultural destinations, charging admission and selling museum-style memberships, according to The Economist last week.

At least one bookseller seems to have found a functioning model. Nebraska Book Company has been able to streamline its business by taking a page from SAP’s book, especially its cloud-based sales application.

Every Trick In The Book

“We picked up SAP Sales OnDemand with the key intent of being more collaborative,” Mike Kelly, senior VP for NBC, told SAP TV. “The first thing we wanted to do was give our [sales] reps a way to communicate with each other without using e-mail.”

Sales OnDemand is a social network-style collaborative solution with a familiar user interface. It helps people:

  • Communicate efficiently
  • Harness collective sales network knowledge
  • Stay abreast of opportunities in real-time

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All of NBC’s relevant sales data is available at the touch of a finger on an iPad.

NBC has a lot at stake, operating more than 200 stores and selling more than 6 million textbooks annually. The Lincoln, Neb.-based chain evaluated characteristics of a profitable bookstore and built that into Sales OnDemand, consolidating all of that data into one convenient location for its sales people.

“We’ve taken 50 percent of what reps spent their day doing, and we’ve eliminated it because they were looking at 10 different places, 10 different sources, having to talk to 10 different people,” Kelly said. “We’ve put that all onto one screen at the touch of their finger on an iPad.”

One For The Books

NBC has an annual sales meeting, at which the company gives away four sales awards. Only three sales representatives qualified for the award last year, but every sales representative qualified for the award this year.

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NBC’s cloud-based solution provides the time and information that sales representatives need to optimize their performance.

“The key to getting from three eligible to 100 percent eligible was giving them the time and the information that they needed to work with stores and be more profitable,” Kelly said. “And that’s what Sales OnDemand helped us do.”

The story of high technology saving the paper book industry might include predictable sales applications and real-time analytics, as well as the previously unthinkable, such as digital books and self-printing.

No matter how the story unfolds, it’s sure to be a page-turner.

Related Media:

Barnes & Noble is in trouble, but bookstores aren’t doomed just yet” in The Wall Street Journal

A real cliffhanger” in The Economist

Nebraska Book Company Sells Better with SAP Sales OnDemand” on SAP TV