Redesign a retail bookstore experience to engage with modern audiences.
EXPERIENTIAL DESIGN
TOOLKIT: Illustrator, Photoshop, Sketch

CHALLENGE

How to help Barnes & Noble, a bookseller company known for having large retail outlets, stay relevant in the age of e-commerce and digital convenience?

WHY IT MATTERS

Large e-commerce conglomerates are changing the way people purchase products and crushing smaller markets that specialize in retail spaces. Since not all businesses can exist on digital platforms, it's important to consider the value of maintaining brick and mortar stores and how to best engage with its customers.

MY ROLE

Brand Audit / Experiential Design /
Creative Concept / Prototyping

TEAM

Sally Zhang (Brand Strategist)
Jackie Koon (Experience Designer)

PROBLEM

People are still buying books. In fact, book sales are increasing. But bookstores everywhere are closing due to the rise in online-retailing. The e-commerce giant, Amazon, has changed the way people buy books. Physical bookstore spaces are no longer as relevant and companies that rely on its in-store businesses, like Barnes & Noble, are suffering.

INSIGHT

People seek the moment of exploration in bookstores instead of just buying books. They browse rather than deep read the book. They are explorers who are more likely to impulse-buy when they get caught in the moment.

OPPORTUNITY

Barnes & Noble is still the leading bookstore retailer. Instead of competing against Amazon, it should leverage its strength, which lies in its in-store space.

We found that independent bookstores have been increasing. They provide the unique experience that bookstore-goers crave. We want to help Barnes & Noble live up to its original brand vision, which captures the qualities people look for in the store's experience.

CREATIVE CONCEPT

The concept is inspired by the brand strategy: Barnes & Noble is the gateway to book explorations. We want to bring the store out of its currently stale and ghost town like atmosphere, and transform it into a modern and uplifting space that inspires a sense of wonder in the people.

CREATIVE GUIDELINES

We developed a series of guidelines that kept true to the values envisioned by its founder, Leonard Riggio.

THE NEW IN-STORE EXPERIENCE

THE BOOKMARK

The Barnes & Noble Bookmark introduces a new form of membership card. It functions as a digital tool to keep track of your purchases and book preferences through RFID (radio-frequency identification) and personalization. It also works as a regular bookmark in physical spaces.

DESIGN INSPIRATION

The Bookmark is designed to call back to Barnes & Noble's Nook. Customer's name will be engraved on the back of the Bookmark. It can be swiped for every in-store purchase. The stored data will be used for other in-store features to create a personalized and inspired experience.

THE WONDER NOOK

Book browsers are invited inside the Wonder Nooks to test the books they discovered within the bookstore. They are personalized spaces for individuals and their family or friends to explore their interests. These spaces can be unlocked with the Barnes & Noble Bookmark. Returning users' preferences for the spaces will be recorded and can be retrieved for future visits.

1. Activation

Tap the Bookmark to the interface on the "spine" of the door to unlock it.

2. Selection Process

Follow the instructions on the screen to curate the most enjoyable setting to read inside. Options include the space's backdrop, sound, and lighting.

3. Interior

After completing the selection process, the door will pop open. The space can fit between 1-3 people, to accommodate for family or small group of friends.

THE WONDER CASE

The Bookmarks can also be used to activate the Wonder Cases spread around the bookstore. It is a vending machine that will dispense a random book based on the selected genre. Returning users who have purchased Barnes & Noble books in the past can access the stored data on their Bookmarks. Top genres will be suggested for them to pick. After spending enough time with the dispensed book, they have the choice to return or purchase it.

1. Activation

Tap the Bookmark to activate the Case.

2. Selection Process

Browse through the suggested genres and pick one to read. The genres are color-coded and revealed through a heat map styled graph.

3. Interior

The mystery book is dispensed! Users can return or purchase it after reading.

EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING

THE WONDER PORTAL

The Barnes & Noble pop-up experiences will set up in major cities across the country to market its innovations and connect with new audiences.

SIGN-UP BOOTH

Visitors can sign-up for a Barnes & Noble membership or receive their own Bookmark if they don't already have one.
The Wonder Portal lets visitors experience the Wonder Nook at a larger-scale. The space will accommodate for multiple people at one-time.
On the outside, the Wonder Portal appears as an ordinary stack of books. Visitors enter through the spines.
The inside reveals space for visitors to explore, sit, and browse books. The backdrop, lighting, and sound will shift to show a range of the different customizations.

RESEARCH + PROCESS

SURVEY

A brief survey was sent to gage people's opinions on bookstores. The different responses are useful to validate our initial hypothesis that people visit bookstores in search of inspiration and exploration.

UNDERSTANDING THE USER

COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE

STORE AUDIT

After visiting the store in-person, we have identified to following pain-points:

Stale and Uninspiring

Ghost Town

Outdated

IDEATION PROCESS

We conducted ideation workshops using various methods to generate as many ideas possible. This helped us think freely and use process of elimination to pick the best ideas that fit our brand strategy and user needs.