Building the world’s best online bookstore

WSOY wanted a visually appealing sales channel that would provide the authentic feel of a physical bookstore and offer an easy and enjoyable shopping experience. WSOY chose Shopify Plus as the platform for the online bookstore, known for its ease of maintenance and scalability.

What defines the best online bookstore in Finland, or perhaps even in the world? Excellent usability and a carefully designed bookstore-like feel.

WSOY wanted to invest in a visually appealing sales channel that would offer the most pleasant shopping experience possible. The content had to be cleverly linked to one another, and the books easy to find. WSOY also wanted depth and additional content in their store, such as interviews, author introductions, and podcasts. The aim was to make the shopping experience as similar as possible to a real brick-and-mortar bookstore.

“The store leverages our publisher’s strength as a content producer. In the future, we will also host virtual events in the online store.”, WSOY’s sales director Veli-Pekka Matilainen adds.

WSOY is a long-term partner of ours, with whom we have done several eCommerce implementations over the years. was part of a larger renewal project to improve WSOY’s entire digital presence.

“The publisher’s own online store, focused only on book sales, is an essential part of our strategy, as it enables us to create a direct contact with the consumers and gain valuable data that we can utilize in developing our sales and marketing in our other distribution channels as well.”, Matilainen states.

WSOY trusted our expertise once again, and we accepted the challenge. We set out to build the world’s best online bookstore on the cloud-based Shopify Plus platform. The maintenance and further development of have since transitioned to the care of WSOY’s new partner.

An eCommerce platform suitable for an active updater

We joined the project after the design agency Saariaho and Järvenpää had renewed the Kirja brand as well as the concept and visual look of the online store. Our first task was to clarify the concept and make a definition of the functionalities.

A few workshops later, we had a clear view on what kind of functionalities and content the client wanted for the store, what user groups and levels the store would need, how the purchasing process and adding products to the shopping cart on different devices would work, and what other opportunities the new online store could open up for WSOY.

The Shopify Plus platform was chosen for several reasons.

“Before making the decision, we compared several platforms, and Shopify met our needs the best. The platform is easy to use from a merchant’s point of view and it scales according to our needs. We will continue to have publisher-specific online stores and Shopify Plus offers the opportunity to manage many online stores on the same platform.”, explains Matilainen.

Shopify is easy and logical to maintain, and its clear management interface is especially good for a merchant who uses and updates the store on a daily basis. Purchasing is easy and the ordering process is fully automated. And if there’s a need to expand the online store in the future, Shopify Plus will scale flexibly as you grow.

Easy to highlight content and make carefully thought-out listings

The merchant wanted the ability to easily highlight content on the online store in various listings, so we created customized product showcasing and listing sections. The booklists can also be set to update automatically if desired, but the merchant chose not to do so. Why?

Because the online store features a vast selection of books from various WSOY imprints. The intention is not to have the books appear randomly but to allow the merchant to curate book selections themselves, leveraging their own expertise. In practice, the listing works by the merchant tagging books in their desired manner, and the system generates lists based on these tags. The merchant can easily arrange the books in the desired order within the list.

We amplified the authentic bookstore feel by using modern HTML5 and CSS techniques. For example, by creating a 3D book that imitates the page count of the actual book we created a depth perspective and an authentic bookcase feel to the online store.

"Working with Hion was highly professional. I received quick responses to my inquiries and additional suggestions on how to improve the platform. I recommend Hion as a partner due to their strong technical expertise, as the most crucial requirement for an online store is its functionality. Furthermore, I can provide a recommendation for their visual design and problem-solving skills."

Pirita Hietalahti, eCommerce Manager, WSOY

Products are automatically imported into the store from WSOY’s system

The integrations of the online bookstore significantly reduced time-consuming tasks for the client. We integrated WSOY’s media bank, product information management, and logistics systems into the online store, automating the purchasing process and minimizing redundant content production. Books are automatically imported into the online store from the client’s product information management system, and as soon as an order is paid for, the orders are sent for delivery directly from the logistics partner’s warehouse.

“The expectations were exceeded in terms of how many things could be automated and how modifications could be made based on the design,” emphasizes Pirita Hietalahti, WSOY’s eCommerce Manager.

The integrations have been implemented by utilizing event calls between WSOY and Shopify systems, as well as REST and GraphQL APIs. The necessary data processing takes place entirely on the Google Cloud Functions platform, separate from the online store and the client’s backend systems, and leverages Google’s Pub/Sub messaging.

In the online store, there was a desire to highlight authors – and other experts, such as translators and illustrators. The merchant doesn’t need to manually input information about authors from different publishers; author profiles are directly imported from the product information management system, and images are sourced from WSOY’s media bank. For the automatic cropping of author’s portraits, we utilized Google Vision, specialized artificial intelligence for facial recognition.

One of the goals for the design was excellent mobile usability, and we did what we promised. We ensured the basic accessibility of the online store with Shopify’s new technologies that optimize the speed and functionality of the store.

"The collaboration has been smooth, communicative, and straightforward. The project team consisted of reliable professionals. Through this collaboration, we have had top experts on the team to practically realize our vision of the future online bookshop. We can rely on their technical expertise and extensive experience."

Veli-Pekka Matilainen, Sales Director, WSOY

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