Anticipate what customers will think, before they think it

We learned this morning that Ray Bradbury, one of the most prolific and influential writers (I didn’t use the term “science fiction” purposefully) of the past century, passed away yesterday at the age of 91. It is now about 1 p.m. CDT and news about his death appears on the front of most of the major news sites I’ve visited in the past five minutes.

As someone who helps clients sell things on the internet, I was curious to see how quickly online booksellers have responded to the news of Bradbury’s death. While I’d prefer not to label anyone’s death, a “merchandizing opportunity,” I think it is only natural that a bookseller would anticipate a spike in interest in Bradbury today in the same way the music of an artist might spike in interest after their death. It’s not advertising or merchandizing if it’s something that will help a customer learn about something they want to learn about.

So, at approximately 12:45 p.m., CDT, I surfed a few retail booksellers websites and captured a screen grab. Here are the front pages of those sites at the time I visited them: A message on the front of the Books page with links to his author page. – An “In Memoriam” – Nothing – Nothing

I could continue, but every site I visited at 12:45 p.m. CDT — including all of the independent bookstores that I admire, had nothing. Apple’s iBook store had nothing.

I’m sure every bookseller online and off will have something posted soon. But there’s a reason, more than pricing and service that Amazon (and its subsidiary, dominate the online book retailing market.

In commoditized markets, anticipating what customers want before they know they want it, is one of few ways left of adding value to your relationship with a customer.