Book Publishers Fight Off Retailer Woes With Strong Digital Push Across Channels

Although the global book publishing industry has seen some decline due to pandemic related shutdowns, a recent market report, the Book Publishers Global Market Report 2020-30: COVID-19 Impact and Recovery by Research And Markets, found that the book publishing industry is expected to “grow at a CAGR of 2% from 2021 and reach $91.4 billion in 2023.” The adoption of digital marketing strategies by publishers in recent years has allowed publishers to know their consumers better, try different promotional innovations and engage across social media. 

According to Research and Markets, “The rise in social media and the increasing volume of consumer data is driving growth and innovation in the book publishers industry. Book publishers can have broad and deep visibility into their consumers, distributors and other stakeholder data. Publishers with digital-first models are investing significantly in building in-house data and analytics teams.”

Consumer Behaviors During COVID-19 Are Helping Book Sales

Publishing isn’t immune to consumer trends that have developed over the last seven months of relative isolation around the world, with many people stuck at home finding solace and comfort in books. Several consumer behaviors and global events impacted what books people purchased, with sales increases seen for a number of book categories, including workbooks for kids learning remotely, books by Black authors that aligned with the racial justice protests and books on breadmaking, which coincided with an 800% rise in yeast sales. Understanding what content consumers want to read right now, and being able to adapt messaging and promotions as need be, has been critical for the success of many industries – including the publishing industry – during these unprecedented times. 

Consumer Data Is Key To Book Publisher Success Stories

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Consumer data has been instrumental in helping book publishers compete in an increasingly competitive entertainment landscape. Prior to digital, retailers were the primary contact with consumers, but publishers are now able to track the behaviors and preferences of consumers through a number of channels, including:

  • Email marketing campaigns: Open and click data can be used for audience segmentation and tracking interest in titles, authors and themes.
  • Social media: Social engagement is widely used by authors and is closely watched by publishers, who often use machine learning tools to track authors and engagement and the consumer market at large.
  • Ecommerce platforms: Created by individual book publishers, consumer browsing and purchasing behaviors can be monitored on ecommerce sites, and very valuable first-party data can be collected for use in future targeting and promotions.

Multichannel Campaigns, Leveraging Channels Like Podcasts And Social Media, Can Be Effective Promotional Tools In Publishing

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Podcasts and book publishers often go hand in hand, with several publishing houses being early creators of podcasts, and podcasts themselves often turned into memoirs and novels. There are more than 104 million podcast-listening consumers, making this audio format potentially ideal for the promotion of authors. “Podcasts provide value to a publisher because they represent a path to a healthy and engaged fanbase that cross-pollinates with an author or a franchise’s audience, broadening both,” said Adam Rowe, a journalist who covers the storytelling and book beat.

Publishers are also using social media to advertise new books, leveraging story and carousel ads and creative, interactive, promotional photo campaigns on platforms like Instagram. Instagram influencers, or “bookstagrammers,” also commonly partner with publishers, offering reviews and curated images. Social media use across all consumer segments has been up during the pandemic, creating an environment ideal for attracting new readers and countering some of the struggles that book retailers may have been experiencing due to brick-and-mortar retail closures.

There is no shortage of available entertainment, and book sales probably face stiffer competition for hearts, minds and eyeballs than at any other time in history. By integrating robust, well-executed digital marketing strategies into promotional campaigns and using first-party data to inform targeting, messaging, pricing and product development, book publishers are successfully reaching consumers and scaling revenues.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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