By: Daniel Berkowitz
In an interview session on day two of the 2016 Digital Book World Conference, Conference Council Chair Mike Shatzkin spoke to Barnes & Noble’s new chief digital officer (CDO), Fred Argir, about how the company is innovating and what he views as some of the company’s biggest challenges.
As the retailer’s first CDO, Argir noted his role is new: “It’s a role that is part digital, part technology, part marketing,” he said. “I have complete responsibility for BarnesandNoble.com as well as Nook.”One of the biggest themes that Shatzkin and Argir discussed was the retailer’s continued transformation and how it is finding new ways to compete in the industry and engage customers.
When Shatzkin brought up the idea of “omnichannels,” Argir responded, “‘Omnichannel’ is one of those terms that I find is misused all of the time… It is, from my point of view, the channels in which we can engage with our customers.”
For Argir and B&N, those channels include in stores, on all devices and especially on mobile.
To that point, Argir noted, “We [B&N] must win the mobile experience.” Mobile phones, Argir noted, must be a tool that can be used in stores to further enhance the retail experience. And for B&N, Argir said, mobile now accounts for more than 50 percent of all traffic to the retailer’s site.
Argir also said that B&N must continue “to keep a pulse on our customers,” engaging them to make sure the retailer’s strategies are resonating. As Argir admitted, “We’ve [B&N] been less focused on the customer service of our own constituents.”
When asked about Amazon’s recent opening of a second physical bookstore, Argir responded by noting that B&N offers a “very unique” experience given its larger store size, “awesome” booksellers, integration of digital content across numerous platforms, and the ability for individuals and families to come sit inside, have coffee and read.Going forward, Argir said, B&N wants to work more with publishers.
“We can win together by sharing content, by sharing traffic back and forth,” Argir noted. He then brought up the idea, which he has discussed with publishers, about creating micro-sites and using video from publishers under the B&N umbrella.
Finally, on the subject of data, Argir said that, at this point, it’s not so much about gathering more data to inform business decisions, but rather how the retailer will use it.
“We have all the data we need,” Argir said. “How do we mine it? How is it meaningful? How is it operationalized?”