It’s been about a year since we debuted our Lulu Direct app for Shopify®. In that time we’ve seen a ton of authors, creators, and businesses begin selling books online with their Shopify® store. We’ve learned a lot from users about what they need most and how to help them be successful. Our goal was to give you the tools to run your business and help sell more books by offering readers exactly what they want from a shopping experience.
But Lulu Direct is just one piece of a successful web store. Shopify® as well; their ecommerce platform is your means to accept payment. Lulu Direct is not a complete tool for selling your book online. It’s just one aspect of a successful online bookstore. But what about all the other aspects of running a store like accounting, advertising, and customizing the interface?
Shopify® offers a solution: Apps! Of course. Just like Lulu Direct, other savvy designers out there have crafted Shopify® Apps that add or expand the functionality of your store in a number of helpful ways.
What Shopify Apps Do I Need?
Apps you might use will depend a lot on what you want to do with your store and what features you want your customers to have. Customizing your store and shopping cart is a great way to provide a clean, easy, and enjoyable experience for your users. But how you do that precisely depends on you, your style, and your customers.
I can’t help with every piece of the puzzle. But, if you’re focusing on selling your books, these Free Apps will help while making your store more robust, easier to manage, and more enjoyable for your users.
1. Product Reviews
Shopify® offers a tone of Apps for Product Reviews, but this one is the simplest while remaining free to use. Everyone knows how important seeing reviews can be when it comes to a buyer making their final decision about any product. Books are no different—your potential readers are that much more likely to buy if they see others have enjoyed your book.
While the Product Reviews App doesn’t offer Amazon or other review service imports, it does use SEO-friendly formatting and provide a quick and easy means to add reviews. If you’re looking for a product review App that does including importing reviews from other sites, you’ll likely need to pay a fee to the App provider.
2. Shopify® POS
While not strictly an App in the same way other Shopify® Apps work, the Point of Sale options is an additional service you add to your Shopify® store. And Shopify® POS does include a mobile App so you can take your retail on the road!
Which is the real benefit of the POS service. They sell a mobile card reader for $49 and with that tool, you can use your existing Shopify® store to handle sales. That includes print-on-demand sales and selling copies on hand! I’m sure you’ve seen vendors taking payment via their smartphones with mini-card readers. The ability to always sell books, no matter the setting, makes Shopify® POS well worth having.
3. Buy Button
This App is built by Shopify® to provide simple ‘Buy Buttons’ you can add almost anywhere. All you do is add the App and select the option to copy a Buy Button line of HTML for your product, then add that HTML to your website or blog. The product’s image and a link to buy on your Shopify® store will be created!
It’s also important to note that the Buy Buttons are a crucial piece of the Shopify® Lite plan. Shopify®’s lowest-cost plan centers around the functionality of providing Buy Buttons for your products. This allows you to sell on your own site through Shopify®’s ecommerce for the minimum investment.
4. Facebook Channel
Another Shopify® built App, the Facebook Channel App supports connecting your store to your Facebook business page so you can sell right on social media. If you’re invested heavily in marketing on Facebook the Channel App is a must-have. Give your Facebook followers the ability to buy without ever having to leave the site!
That’s a huge element behind the growth of social selling. If you want to sell more books, you need to bring those sales opportunities to your consumers where they like to (digitally) hang out.
5. Instagram Channel
Same deal as the Facebook Channel, the Instagram Channel App allows you to connect your products to your Instagram feed and makes sales on the social media site directly.
Adding social selling can be a huge boon for some creators, especially those who rely on digital ‘word of mouth’ to spread awareness. If you’re active on a social media channel, adding the ability to buy direct for those users is a great way to boost sales and simplify the process. All while giving you the control to highlight your products in a medium you’re already comfortable using.
Kit is an AI marketing assistant that asks you for information about your products, then provides data to help engage new customers. The App is another one designed by the Shopify® team and it works well for new and novice sellers.
If you’re an author who’s more interested in writing than selling, Kit is almost a must-have App to help you without the need for marketing or technical knowledge. It is important to note the other Apps Kit integrates with and consider whether or not you’ll be using those Apps as well. On its own, Kit is a helpful marketing tool; but it really shines when you can combine Kit’s suggestions with other Shopify® Apps to get the best marketing advice.
7. Digital Downloads
One thing the Lulu Direct app lacks that some traditional Lulu users might miss is the ebook option. But we were conscious of this when we created Lulu Direct, knowing full well that Shopify® already offered a range of great digital download Apps.
Digital Downloads is a simple App that provides a download button after an order is completed and an email with a link to download. You can limit downloading as well. Best of all, you can easily pair a digital download to a physical product (your book) so you can offer bundled options for print and ebook copies.
I’m highlighting the Shop Sheriff AMP App because it’s the highest-rated free AMP option on the Shopify® App store. That said, you just need to use some AMP App for your store. Find the one that works best for you and use it. If you can afford it, there are plenty of paid AMP Apps with a wider range of features.
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages and the App will help optimize your store to load faster and work better on mobile devices. AMP Apps will also help relay this information to Google, to ensure your mobile site ranks better in the mobile-first ranking systems.
Basically, all websites need to employ AMP best practices.
Bonus – Product Previewer
Okay, we got one more BONUS app that I had to add to this list. The Product Previewer is a lightweight app that lets you provide a detailed view of any product in your store. For books, in particular, a preview can be vital in convincing a reader to make a purchase.
Just pick images of some interior pages to share and add them to the previewer app. When a reader looks at your book’s details, they’ll have the option to virtually ‘look inside’ your book!
Sell More Books the smart way
Thanks to the huge boom in Shopify® users over the last two years, the platform has been growing and expanding exponentially. This means the App creators are being more thorough and vigilant than ever before; and that you have access to more quality ways to configure your store. With conscious App creators offering better tools, you’ll be able to design and customize your author site and retail store to sell more books directly to readers.
There’s no reason not to sell your book through online retailers too (no one is trying to usurp Amazon here) but studies continue to show that consumers prefer buying directly from creators. With Shopify® and Lulu Direct, the opportunity to sell online directly to your readers has never been easier. And with the ever-expanding suite of Apps for Shopify® stores, you can make your author website exactly the way you want (and need) it to be.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.