New trends are emerging in the book market, all centered on the integration of physical and digital channels. All this is reflected in a new marketing strategy for the publishing industry. We will look at the most effective strategies in this article.
Book publishing, when you think about it, is one of the oldest industries in the world, from the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in the second half of the 15th century until today.
The other side of the coin is that it is a sector that often struggles more than others to evolve rapidly, to become fluid, flexible and dynamic as our time demands.
And “our era” is that of Digital transformation: A major turning point that has changed the way we produce, consume and relate to ourselves and others. Naturally, it is also changing the way we read and, more generally, the book itself.
Be careful though: the problem is by no means limited to the transition from physical books to digital books (a transition which, by the way, is proving to be slower and much less inexorable than it was years ago). Far from there!
For the publishing industry, it is rather a question of putting the physical and the digital side by side, of making them coexist and interact, have a cross-channel strategy.
It is therefore a question of triggering a virtuous circle in which both parties reinforce each other.
This integration must concern the entire supply chain and all processes, from production to distribution and sales (in this time of emergency, online sales have recorded a predictable surge, consolidating a trend that was already progressing steadily; we will come back to this in the next section).
But above all, digital plays a key role in a marketing strategy for publishing. And this is where the most interesting opportunities for operators in the sector lie. Opportunities that are, for the most part, yet to be seized.
It is precisely on this aspect, therefore on book publishing and marketing strategies, that we will focus in this post.
But first, let’s take a step back and quickly see how the publishing industry has taken the brunt of this complicated time and how it has responded. Be careful, there are many interesting signs in this data!
Book publishing before and after Covid
Consider the data provided by the Report on the State of Publishing in Italy by the AIE (Association of Italian Publishers). In 2018, the total turnover of the book market increased by +3.0% compared to the previous year. The trend then continued in 2019with +2.8% which brought the total turnover of the sector to 3.037 billion euros.
Then came 2020, a very complicated year that was devastated from the first months by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And yet, in this emergency context, some very interesting data have emerged. One of all: The sector grew further, by 2.4% compared to 2019.
This is a really significant result considering that from January to April the turnover of the sector had fallen by 20%. The recovery took place in June: -11%. By September, year-on-year losses had declined further, to -7%. At the end of the year, it was positive with the +2.4% that we mentioned above.
This recovery and this stability should make players in the sector think twice. They contain many positive signs; and that they stem in large part of the unprecedented exploitation of digital technology.
- From January to April, with many bookstores closing, online sales accounted for 48% of the total (against 27% in 2019… we are talking about almost double).
- The trend has not been halted by reopenings: in July, online sales still accounted for 44% of the total.
- electronic books recorded a 27% year-over-year growth.
- Then pay attention to podcasts and audiobookswhich are often taken advantage of through dedicated platforms based on subscriptions: For this branch, the increase compared to 2019 was even 94%.
Then we come to the front of the bookstore: There is no point in hiding, the economic damage here has been significant. Again, even here, if you go deeper, interesting trends emerge. Faced with the growth of e-commerce giants like Amazon, neighborhood bookstores are holding up well (chain bookstores have often been penalized by their location in historic city centers, or at least in places with high traffic).
To be even more specific: Bookstores are holding up well, even the very small ones, which have been able to reinvent themselves, open online shops and provide home delivery services, but also make their presence felt online, including on social media, with streaming presentations, remote reading groups, promotional videosand the involvement of small or large influencers.
In short, companies that have been able to demonstrate flexibility and integrate an effective digital strategy have resisted and relaunchedfor sales of course, but also and above all for marketing and communication. And we know how closely these two aspects are intertwined.
The lesson is valid for large or small bookstores and for independent bookstores and chains, and it is very clear: Today, publishing marketing is almost entirely digital. On the contrary, it is played out at the intersection of paper and digital. And it’s all about finding the right mix.
Digital Marketing Strategy for Publishing: Winning Channels and Strategies
Thus, this period suggests some interesting trends. People involved in creating a marketing strategy for the publishing industry know that it’s all about keeping your eyes peeled and seizing opportunities before and better than others. And – as we’ve said before – today’s opportunities are mostly digital.
First of all, for publishing houses (and for booksellers) it is important to look after the website, with absolute and surgical attention to the SEO side.
Maximum care also for online shops: Of course, tools such as Amazon or other e-commerce portals are indispensable; but setting up a personalized and well-optimized in-house store in an omnichannel way, guarantees higher revenues (also due to disintermediation) and – above all – is the first step to aim for greater loyalty among its readers. This is a decisive point, on which there is still a long way to go.
Remember: Loyalty is also becoming more and more digitalFrom the point of view of Data and personalization (and we will dwell on this decisive aspect at the end of this article).
Upstream, however, it is necessary pay the greatest attention to the modalities that lead to the purchase, to the so-called digital Customer Journey.
SEO optimization goes in this direction, but it is only one of the aspects involved.
Among the most effective digital marketing strategies, it is good to put in place:
Even better if carried out in an increasingly user-friendly way (and, again, here the central factor of personalization comes back). Cold emails that are the same for all recipients are much less effective than those that target increasingly specific targets, on segments selected according to their characteristics, their previous purchases, their behavior and their preferences. This is what we mean by data driven marketing.
- Social media marketing.
Publishers can no longer give up on a well-constructed social strategy. Readers are increasingly present on social networks. This is where they meet, exchange opinions, interface with authors, but also with booksellers, and attend video-streaming presentations.
In this respect, try to set up a video-marketing strategy: it is increasingly important. Videos are the most eye-catching type of content on social mediaand the one with the best engagement rates.
(We will devote one of our next articles in this block to video marketing for the publishing industry).
This point is closely related to the previous one. On social networks — and in particular on Instagram — the phenomenon of influencers is now also consolidating for the world of books, and that makes it important to start collaborations here. Again, the goal is not to “shoot in the dark”. The influencer marketing ecosystem, in fact, is becoming increasingly layered and specialized, and it is often more effective (and convenient) to interface with micro-influencers, than with those who are defined as the best influencers. Indeed, micro-influencers have a smaller, but much more loyal and involved fan base. These influencers are perceived as more “authentic”, and therefore closer to the reader.
Proximity (even and especially digital) to the individual reader is the way to go when it comes to book publishing and marketing strategies.
Moving from data to personalization
This is a decisive point, on which we will dwell at length in the next articles on the publishing industry.
The real driver of digital transformation is actually something very simple: data. It’s the huge amount of “digital footprints” we all leave online every day. For example, when we search on Google, when we express preferences on social networks, when we make purchases, when we leave comments on Amazon, when we geolocate ourselves, perhaps through dedicated applications… These are not just a few examples of the digital traces we leave online.
This is the starting point for those marketing publishing today: Use your data to know your audience.
Publishing industry: the importance of marketing for publishers
The point of arrival, ultimately, is the person: the reader.
In your marketing strategy for the publishing industry, marketers need to know more about the individuals and change from a one-to-many perspective to a one-to-one perspective. With the most advanced digital tools today, this can be done even in front of a very large audience.
That’s exactly what Doxee is, a company specializing in data-driven marketing and personalization.
There are many tools: personalized videosbuilt according to individual recipients and interactive (Doxee Pvideo®) for custom micro sites (Doxee Pweb®). There are many possible applications, and we will come back to them in future articles.
The direction to take is clear: Transform data into relationships to get closer and closer to readers. It’s a path that goes through physical and digital channels…together.