Sue Smith, CBA Board Chairman

Last month I talked about how our store is becoming more intentional about carrying ABA titles alongside the CBA best-sellers in our children’s department. Careful selection is part of that process, and so are book reviews. As we make changes to our product mix, we need our shoppers to know that they can still trust our book selection—and us.

REACH OUT FOR REVIEWS

Reviews are hardly a revolutionary concept. We work with books because we love reading, and people ask us for recommendations every day. In my store, we require our staff to supply a new book review monthly for our “Staff Recommendations” wall.

But employees are only a starting point. If someone on your staff is available to edit their contributions, you can involve your community in the review effort. Reach out to local churches for pastoral recommendations, librarians from area Christian schools, and customers that you see regularly. Bringing your community into the mix ensures new viewpoints and gives reviewers a vested interest in your store.

Once you have some people willing to review books, make sure the results are uniform by setting up a template. Ours is pretty straightforward: title, author, a one-sentence synopsis, a two- to three-paragraph review focusing on the books’ benefits, and any red flags.

REMAIN TRUSTWORTHY

A quick word about the red flags: Every community is different. Regardless of how careful you are to curate your store’s content, you will end up carrying something that will offend someone. I believe the best thing is to be up front with customers and put the power in their hands to make informed decisions about what is right for their family. Doing so will only help them see you as trustworthy in the future.

SPREAD THE WORD

The last practical consideration is how to use the reviews once you have them. If your store has a website that allows book reviews, post the full review. If not, consider starting a store review blog. Use a quotable sentence on social media and as shelftalkers in the store. If you have enough content, consider printing them on bag stuffers and sending them home with an invitation for customers to review the books they just purchased. By engaging your community of readers to share their thoughts, it allows you to better know (and better serve) your customers. It allows your customers to be more invested in your store. And it gives you the competitive edge on product knowledge, while remaining trustworthy.

Sue Smith, CBA Board Chairman

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