Clickers vs. Brickers / by J.C. Hutchins

I conducted a poll on Twitter today, hungry to satisfy a curiosity I'd had for a long time. I asked: Question: When you buy books, are you MOSTLY a "clicker" (meaning shop online), or a "bricker" (shop in brick-and-mortar stores)?

I tallied results for three hours. The results of the poll rocked my little noggin.

Why I Asked Since the June release of my debut novel Personal Effects: Dark Art, I've been keen to learn more about the buying habits of shoppers. But not just any shoppers -- "my" shoppers, my peeps, the folks who've supported my free podcast fiction for years. I wanted data, so I could see where and why my peeps shop where they shop, so I could strategize my upcoming outreach efforts for my technothriller 7th Son: Descent, which will be released in late October.

Based on three and a half years of anecdotal data (culled from thousands of emails), some statistical knowledge of the space (culled from white papers on podcasting, mostly) and some first-hand statistical data (culled from my mailing list), I already knew some things about my peeps:

  • Most have a college degree; many have post-graduate degrees
  • Most have disposable income (though it may be ever-dwindling in this shithole economy)
  • They are overwhelmingly male
  • Most are between the ages of 36-45, though my work is popular with the 26-35 and 46-and-over markets
  • They have online tech savvy (I use the inconvenient task of subscribing to a podcast as an unofficial barometer of this; subscribing to podcasts is still a pain)
  • They are social media savvy (The fact that they were on Twitter and could "@" reply was the barometer here, as well as my experiences with them in other communities, including my own)

I fully understood that this poll was unscientific. I didn't care about science, and honestly believe that Objectivity is a myth. (From my experiences as a newspaperman, I concluded long ago that nearly any thing that is observed alters its behavior because it knows it's being observed, thus altering the foundation for accurate reporting. Further, no journalist is Objective; it's an emotional impossibility.) I was questing for anecdotal data -- real-world, from-the-gut results provided by what I perceived as my core fan base.

What I Expected My expectations, before I asked the question, were practically chiseled in my brain. I firmly believed that the Twitter crowd (who represented my "base," in this unscientific endeavor) would overwhelmingly choose "clicker" over "bricker" -- a clear preference for online shopping. This was a natural assumption based on a few things:

  • They're likely online far more than the "average" consumer (Hell, they were tweeting during business hours!) :)
  • This online familiarity implied confidence and familiarity with online retailers such as
  • Based on observations from book launches during the past two years (including recent launches of Personal Effects and Trust Agents), Amazon was swarming with Day One purchases, implying further familiarity
  • I totally projected my own shopping behavior onto my fans. I'm a clicker, nearly exclusively.

How I Collated the Data I received so many responses to my informal poll, I could barely keep up. Many thanks to all my friends who "re-tweeted" my question, which made it reach more respondents that I could have on my own.

I collected responses into four groups:

  1. Folks who were "clickers," mostly online shoppers
  2. Folks who were "brickers," mostly in-store shoppers
  3. Folks who said they did both equally ("50/50")
  4. Folks whose answers didn't express a clear preference

I tallied up the "clicker" and "bricker" responses, and then took the "50/50" responses, and -- since these shoppers were equally inclined to shop online and in-store -- added a point to both the "clicker" and "bricker" tallies for each response. I did not add the unclear responses to the tallies.

The Results Here ya go:


Clicker: 118 Bricker: 117

This is quite different than what I expected. :)

What Does It Mean? (Part One) The most illuminating take-away for me was that the people whom I perceive to be my core fan base -- tech-savvy social media users (or outright geeks) -- love to shop in brick-and-mortar bookstores. Yes, yes, they obviously love shopping online ... but these results clearly indicate that new media authors like me, who forge their reputations online, cannot ignore the allure and power of brick-and-mortar stores. New media authors simply cannot expect fans to head to Amazon -- which is the easy (and perhaps wrongheaded) thing to assume, as several comments below suggest.

Some Comments Here are a several interesting responses from Twitter users. (Some comments edited for spelling/clarity)

If I know what I want, I buy it online. I'm more likely to buy a book at random from the store, though. (writeingthings)

I like buying in stores. There's something special about buying books in an actual store. (TheCharmQuark)

I'm about 50% split. If I KNOW what book I want, I'll buy it online, but if I'm at a bookstore, I'll browse and buy. (basest)

I am a clicker to research, but a bricker to buy. I gotta feel the book. *rubs fingers together* (greenglam)

I guess I'm a "bricker." Prefer holding it in my hands, and the immediate gratification of taking it home right then and there. (nickhinton)

Mostly a clicker, b/c of price. Also b/c many authors are selling signed copies directly. (chrisbowsman) is the only way I buy books, 99.99% of the time. Free shipping and awesome deals rocks. (unixtudotnet)

I'm both. I buy paper, I buy Kindle, I buy audiobooks. Different book form factors for different purposes. (cspenn)

What Does It Mean? (Part Two) What does this imply for my pre-release outreach strategies for 7th Son: Descent? I don't rightly know yet. It certainly suggests that reminding fans to pre-order and purchase in-store is mission-critical for new media authors. Buying in-store represents natural shopping behavior, but it's less convenient than shopping online. Since the bookstore is a "destination" (drive drive drive to the store, etc.), busy folks must be politely reminded that it's totally cool to buy in-store -- but for the love of Pete, don't forget to buy! :) New media authors cannot assume Amazon is the magic bullet answer.

What else does it mean? I'm digesting this anecdotal data now, and hope to come to some conclusions that will help me effectively promote 7th Son: Descent -- and effectively direct fans to their ideal shopping options during the first two critical weeks the book is available for purchase. Sustained sales are the secret to a great-performing book ... but nothing beats a good, hot-damn grand opening.

What do you think? Am I making wrongheaded assumptions about this anecdotal data? Are my findings elementary? What conclusions or insights can you share?