How Impulse-Buying Supports Comic Sales, and the Internet's Weakness in Reverse-Propositional Sales Strategies

imgThe blog Living on Digital Gadgets has an interesting analysis on the sales strategies of online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, and ways in which online bookstores could learn from the physical stores to better stimulate impulsive purchases. (All costs have been roughly converted to dollars at a rate of 100 yen = $1)

Apparently the author of the blog noticed us linking to/quoting his site, and was kind enough to post an entry giving us a shout-out.

「デジ埋」 管理人様、ご紹介有難うございました!

Regarding "purchasing comic books," the Internet is powerless. Why is that?
The primary reason is that comics are "small-ticket" items. And there are 2 perspectives you could look at this hurdle from:


Because they are small-ticket items, comics cannot overcome the hurdle of shipping fees. For example, Amazon and bk1 offer free shipping on all items over $15, but for comics, $15 is a tall hurdle to overcome. Stated in simple terms, this means that these online services can only be used on bulk purchases of at least 3-4 books; nobody wants to pay $8 for a $5 comic, do they?

When you click the thumbnail, you get an enlarged image. There are also services where shipping is free if you have your package delivered to a convenience store for pickup, such as 7andY. These are borderline-acceptable. If there is a 7-11 where you can pick up your orders located somewhere along your route to school/work, then you could make good use of the service for small-ticket purchases like comics. However, if you must go out of your way to pick up your orders, then you may as well go to a bookstore to begin with.


Because they are small-ticket items, comics promote the habit of impulse-buying in consumers. It is OK to impulse-buy comics. If these were digital gadgets in the range of hundreds or thousands of dollars, it would never be acceptable to impulsively purchase an item you just saw in a storefront and had no prior knowledge about. The same holds true for music as well; it depends on how rich you are, but it's very rare that somebody just grabs 3 or 4 CD's at random, at $30 a pop, and brings them up to the cash register. With $5 comic books, this is quite doable.

And here is the key point: with small-ticket items that you can buy on whim with no reservations, you must be able to window-shop. The rationale behind your purchases is not objective-based ("I want this!"), but rather you are in a receptive mood, wanting to be offered something ("what do they have that piques my interest?")

We have often seen cases where people who headed off to the bookstore looking for a specific title ended up purchasing 7-8 different comics on a whim, despite the fact that he or she didn't find what they were originally looking for. The reason? Because the comics corner in the bookstore has hundreds of books stacked and on display, all of which can trigger an impulse purchase.

In comparison, it is difficult to experience this "reverse-proposal" experience of having hundreds of comics stacked in front of you for perusal. When you search for a title on Amazon, the site offers a specific list of recommendations offering volume sets or similar titles, but unless you actively send queries to them, Amazon's recommendations rarely result in an impulse buy.
We have focused exclusively on comics so far, but the situation is the same for all small-ticket items. For example, it would be difficult to impulse-buy a $20 business manual, but a $7 novel could easily be purchased on a whim. With music, a $30 CD may be a bit of a stretch, but a $2 download off of the iTunes Music Store would be quite probable.

However, the reason that, in each of these scenarios, consumer interest in online stores is weak is because their "reverse-propositional abilities" are weak. Brick-and-mortar bookstores have mastered the art of marketing to the "impulse-purchase" crowd, by creating an environment where you can have fun just staring at all sorts of comics; they stack the books face-up to show off their covers, and display new releases, best sellers, staff recommendations etc, to the tune of hundreds of volumes; all the store needs is for a customer to browse the displays, and for 1 or 2 of those books to catch their eye. This "new release/best-seller/recommended" style also makes the store displays a media center where people can catch up on the latest trends and information. That is why people continually end up buying something whenever they visit a bookstore, and how they manage to stay in business.

Amazon and other online bookstores have developed their businesses by focusing on their core strength, "searchability and selection," which brick-and-mortar bookstores cannot compete with. This is truly the foundation of the online bookstore. However, now that that strength is close to being developed to completion, it may actually be time to take a more serious look at brick-and-mortar stores' "recommendation ability" and ability to trigger impulse purchases."
Even in Amazon, it should be quite possible to have a page listing just the covers of hundreds of new releases and staff/customer-recommended titles. Just browsing through such a list would be enough to pique consumer interest and perhaps allow customers to get acquainted with a new title.

The implication is not that the internet and online vendors have any critical weaknesses as a user interface to conduct business in a reverse-propositional manner; on the other hand, it could be said that until now they have focused on developing their fundamental strengths and created an interface specializing in searchability and selection in order to compensate for their weakness in small-ticket items.

What we want is a world where we can emulate the physical experience of wandering around a brick-and-mortar store, looking for something interesting, by browsing through items in an online store. Of course, simply lining up products is not good enough; actually trying it would make anybody realize just how much painstaking detail brick-and-mortar stores put into how they organize their displays.
It's all about the amount of human (employee) sensibility and effort that goes into making an interesting and entertaining showcase, one that you can't help but buy something off of.

Online business still has a long way to go.

Source: コミックスの売り上げを支える衝動買いと、ネットが弱い逆提案型販売

translated by Neuroretardant (

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Good article, and stuff I

Good article, and stuff I can very well relate too. When I want to buy manga I pretty much HAVE TO rely on purchasing online since I don't really have a real-life alternative in the neighbourhood, let alone in the same province. Especially one that focusses on English language manga.

Though impulse-buying is lower when I order online, in my opinion it's usually a good thing. But then again I have the internet as a back-up to browse through an array of resources, and let something pique my interest.
But then again sometimes, the hands-on thing you get at a real store still has a special something that can't be recreated. How good the online store's services may be, and that in the end it is the better option for buying larger quantities. Which is fun in it's own way, 'stall the pleasure' till you get a big load in.

I can't really relate the

I can't really relate the place I buy my manga from offers free shipping on orders above $100 & about 35% off the cover price I've never seen a store that can compete

King Mob, who do you order

King Mob, who do you order from? The place I order from that offers the same thing just shut down business (all direct). I was wondering if it's the same place. Now I have to find a new supplier.

I don't really think this

I don't really think this article applies to outside of Japan, since manga is not really "small ticketed" items here. $10-15/book most people, especially teens -- the majority targeted audience -- would not think it's cheap.

Personally, I can't relate to this article either, since I buy a lot online (the only way to get it cheap from where I live) by impulse, plus I do use the recommendation thing by amazon or yesasia a lot since I'm buying a bunch anyways, and shipping doesn't cost much more if I order an extra volume or two (plus the price of one volume is usually 1/2 or 1/3 the price of the American stuff, so it's worth trying). Although, I have to admit, I ended up not liking the recommended titles half the time, but it forces me to try new titles, so I'll keep buying with my "impulse" method.

I'd dispute the contention

I'd dispute the contention that online comics buyers don't indulge in impulse buying. Have these survey people not heard of "surfing the Net"?

There are hundreds of manga and anime discussion boards, and most people who are into reading and viewing graphic stories spend quite a bit of time on those boards, observing buzz about this or that comic. Once interest is piqued, a search gets underway, and comics or DVDs are ordered.

The studies can only observe the search and order process, not the random pursuit of information that takes place before the actual order. The primary difference between the online stores and the brick-and-mortar ones is that the online stores have less control over the process, however much they benefit from it anyway.

bakaryu they are working on

bakaryu they are working on the site

I have to buy my manga

I have to buy my manga online because very few shops sell manga (let alone comics) and the ones that do offer a selection of 3 different titles with the same volume for years.

Luckily, I don't have to pay per item shipping. I can order in bulk (and do) and then pay R29/R50 for shipping depending which site I visit.

My manga choices depend on what I've seen and liked online and the "recommended" option that comes with online websites. Impulse buying is a definite problem for me because I go on intending to spend a couple of hundred and land up buying thousands.

king mob: bad news,

king mob: bad news, is closed. I'm a little mad since I had placed an order and received an email saying my cc didn't process. since I was able to use this same cc everywhere else, naturally I followed up with them. I received an email saying alldirect is now closed for business. Why don't they just say that in the first place instead of making it seem like my cc is bad in the first place?

I like buying from yesasia,

I like buying from yesasia, they jack up the manga price a dollar or two per volume.. but their free shipping make up for it, which comes up to at least the same in total if not cheaper than elsewhere. Plus, they (usually) give me really good service and reply to all my requests and hunt down all the manga i ask them to (since their selection is not exactly competible to say, amazon's).

bakaryu all we can do now is

bakaryu all we can do now is pray or go to justmanga :/

My manga choices depend on

My manga choices depend on what I've seen and liked online and the "recommended" option that comes with online websites. Impulse buying is a definite problem for me because I go on intending to spend a couple of hundred and land up buying thousands.