Behind the Book | Five Minutes with Booktopia

Power Retail By Power Retail | 04 Dec 2020

Booktopia launched its IPO on the Australian Stock Exchange on December 3rd. We had a chat with Wayne Baskin, the Deputy CEO and CTO of Booktopia, about the retailer’s past, present and future, and how they celebrated their big milestone.

On December 3rd, Tony Nash and Steve Traurig rang the bell at the Australian Stock Exchange to celebrate the completion of its IPO. After 16 years in the industry, the company has become one of the leading Australian online retailers.

How did Booktopia celebrate this momentous occasion? “We had some celebrations in the office and a live stream from the ASX for all staff including in the DC, so it was all pretty exciting. But it’s already back to business as usual as this is just one step on our journey and not the finish line,” Wayne Baskin, Deputy CEO and CTO of Booktopia told Power Retail.

This year has been unmatched in terms of e-commerce adoption from Australian shoppers and retailers. In FY20, Australians spent $2.5 billion on books, including eBooks – 36 percent of those were bought online. Booktopia currently has a six percent market share of Australian book sales.

It has been a huge year in many ways. What has been the biggest development for Booktopia?

“In November we went live with our latest $12M automation project which will allow us to double our potential outbound capacity to 60,000 units,” Baskin told Power Retail. “The new automation introduces two new automated packing machines which can do 800 parcels an hour and allows us to remove our use of bubble wrap and plastic fillers. This year we also launched our new eBook and Audiobook streaming platform in partnership with Rakuten Kobo,” Baskin explained.

via LinkedIn

Wayne Baskin, Deputy CEO and CTO of Booktopia.
source: LinkedIn

The pandemic has changed the way Australians understand the entire retail industry and has transformed it faster than experts could predict. What has been the biggest strategy change Booktopia has seen from its customers in the last 12 months?

“We were well position for the uplift in sales due to the pandemic being a pure-play online retailer who has already made a substantial investment in our logistics and automation. This means except for increasing capacity with the new automation, there is very little strategy change required. I think the biggest change we have made in our business has been in terms of staffing and allowing more flexibility to allow our staff to work remotely,” he said.

Aussies have spent more time at home than ever before. What have been some of the most interesting customer behaviour changes that Booktopia has experienced?

“At Booktopia, we have seen how people have ridden out COVID-19 through the books they have bought and how this changed as it has progressed. In the early days, it was all about entertainment and occupying the kids with activity books, kids books and fiction for themselves. We also obviously saw a big drop in travel books. Then as the pandemic went on, people wanted to make better use of their time, and we saw a lot of non-fiction and lifestyle books being bought,” Baskin told Power Retail.

“Cooking, learning languages, and even learning the piano seemed to become more popular. We also started to see people thinking about travel within Australia and buying road trip books which is very encouraging. Finally, as the Zoom calls have now become a thing we saw and are continuing to see a big uptake in coffee table books and books that look impressive on people’s bookshelves as they decorate their video conferencing backgrounds.”

Looking back over the history of Booktopia, what has been the biggest lesson you have learned?

“This was a lesson we learnt in the very early days when we started stocking our first products (as opposed to ordering from the supplier after a customer ordered). It’s put the customer at the centre of every decision you make. By stocking those first books we saw the positive feedback we received from our customers when their order arrived so quickly, and from then we have always asked ourselves ‘What is best for the customer?’,” he said.

via LinkedIn

The Booktopia team celebrate the completion of its IPO
source: LinkedIn

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