Barnes and Noble is changing up its marketing. In the last couple of months, the giant bookseller is communicating with its regular customers (like me, a B&N club cardholder for years) in a slightly different way.
Among the first changes that come to mind: fewer coupons (sigh) but never mind that for now. Their emails now include a weekly editorial with book reviews — which are actually pretty good reading themselves — from Barnes & Noble Review (a daily digest with contributing articles by various writers) of recently-published books . The main editor is someone named James Mustich, and I guess you could say I’m getting to know him.
In spite of the hype about e-readers (NOOK, Kindle, etc.) most publishers agree there will always be a place for traditional books and small, specialty bookstores. In fact, the smaller the shop, the more loyal its customers. Readers come to rely of the store owner’s selections and taste. If it fits theirs, then they’ll keep coming back. Bibliophiles are groupies like that.
So B&N is trying to go after that small bookstore feel, while still selling a gajillion books and keep stores open. At the same time, the company is courting their fast growing NOOK crowd and nurturing the digital market that feeds them. The recent launch of NOOK Color, NOOK Newsstand, and NOOK Kids entrenches them in the e-book market. Last quarter the company reported two times the sales of e-books compared to paper books.
Handily, those weekly BNR emails will work well with that sector too, since NOOK users can upload interesting books instantly and for less cost than a real book.
Listen to me…”a real book” I say. I bought my husband a Kindle (yes, I like its screen better than the NOOK’s) for Father’s Day because he buys ten fat paperback at a time and they’re starting to take up precious real estate in the library. Me, I just haven’t gone digital yet; I’m old-fashioned.
I still like those “real” paper books. (I even like the way they smell, the binding glue and paper scent a new book breathes when you open it. It’s the whole sensory experience.) So I bought this book last weekend, and tucked into the book with my receipt was this small slip of paper, separate from the receipt but printed on the same tape. TWO small slips of paper fell out when I opened the book, a small but important detail; I looked at both.
On the the smaller slip (see above photo) was a short list of titles that “B&N RECOMMENDS,” including one I already bought recently from the same location (Super Sad True Love Story), and 4 other titles that warrant the store’s claim “We think you’ll like these great titles.”
By the way, I buy a lot of business and marketing books at the local B&N store as well, but no business books were on my little slip, proof that it’s computer generated by genre and not by past purchasing history. Or maybe it’s some sneaky algorithm that blends both.
In any case it’s clever marketing, not unlike the way Amazon tells you what other readers bought when they selected the same book you just chose.
Two or more books are better than one:
- The trusted book critic recommends a new book every day — seven a week!
- The more recent “critic” — crowd-sourcing — leads you to the most popular purchases among “readers like you”
- a computer generates a list of recent well-received releases in the same genre
The “More is More” tactic works on book-lovers — and all hobbyists, come to think of it. Fabric, vintage car parts, golf clubs, and on and on.
When I started writing this post, my intention was to write about changing marketing strategies to keep customers engaged with fresh content. Now I realize that this topic gave me a lot of good ideas to chew on: editorial content, reviews of products, how to stay original in the way we personalize marketing messages based on past purchases…the wheels just keep spinning.
Incidentally, Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), reports its fourth quarter and fiscal 2011 year-end earnings results on Tuesday, June 21st, before the market opens. Personally, I’m enjoying the new marketing strategy and I hope it’s working out for the company if for no other reason than that it’s the only local bookstore (with real books) in the area. But trust me, I’d be happy to support a small independent bookstore any day if any entrepreneur had balls enough to open one these days.
I hope you are thinking about your small business in a new way today. I know I am.
Written by Jen McGahan