On September 17 and 18, in the wonderful setting of Villa La Torrossa in Fiesole (Florence), took place the Digital Marketing Days of Editech, the Italian event devoted to digital publishing organized by the Italian Publishers Association.
Marketing and communication were the themes that ran through the two days event, having been introduced by Andre Breedt, Director of Nielsen Book Research at Nielsen Book Research UK, Client Services, in a speech focused on consumers book buying in digital and print.
Interviewed by Giornale della Libreria, he offered his view on how new customers habits are affecting marketing strategies.
How crucial is nowdays the knowledge of customers’ reading and purchase habits? How much these trends have changed in the last years?
I would say that this is more crucial than ever. As the retail market has seen many changes the consumer has less opportunity to browse in store, with the rise of on line retail. This has changed how people discover and read books. Along with this the growth in entertainment of all types has increased competition for a persons time and how they spend this on leisure. If I am using a tablet my e-book is competiting with all other e-books, as well as my email. Understanding how and why people consume different media is very important in this changing world.
What about books (and e-books) discovery? Which are the most used sources?
Discovery remains led by personal recomendation, as it always was. There is no better method of finding books by those that we know. How those people communicate has changed though, social media is playing a bigger role. As is on line reviews, how trusted these are and how they are used is also changing.
Do you think there’s a link between a good use of metadata and sales?
Absolutely, to the point of the item above, as people shop more online and in- app, data becomes more and more important. In a physical bookshop I can browse a whole section in a few minutes, online I have to scroll through areas or know exactly what I am looking for. Without data I cannot find what I am looking for, and even when I do. Knowing that it really is the book I want needs data to reassure me. We have also previously published papers on this, and are working on an update currently. Stating the statistical link between the two.
What about the relationship between publishing and Big Data? How are publishers dealing with this huge source of information about customers?
The industry is just starting the big data journey. That said big data is also just a term, we have had big data for longer than most industries, the mere cataglogue of a national ISBN agency qualifies as big data. How we use it though is going to evolve as big data applications are applied to marketing and consumer data. I do not think we are yet dealing with or accessing the scale of consumer data that is avaliable, but it will also depend on how quickly publishers shift to marketing direct to the consumer and perhaps selling direct to the consumer, outside of niche areas.
Which are publishers’ needs in this area? Which services and skills do they need the most?
I am not sure I can answer this question with brevity, but perhaps brevity is my problem! Publishers need people who can adapt as the technology adapts, rather than a specific set of skills with acronyms next to them, hadoop is popular now, but will it be in future. Agile software development is not a new concept, but applying it to the the book production editorial process could reap huge rewards. Being flexible and evolving internally is what I would urge publishers to do, rather than adopt fads and focusing on specific skills. Try and fail at lots of things as you learn.
How do these data affect publishers’ marketing strategies?
Marketing has changed and is changing some more. Publishers are walking the fine line between marketing direct to the consumer, as well as making use of the phyiscal retail channells. Both are important. Increasingly the on line and the physical are seen together rather than as competing strategies. The consumer does not differentiate in the same way as the marketer may.
According to you, which are the most interesting marketing trends in the publishing sector?
The difficult balance between old and new, both are needed for growth. Supporting physical retail while expanding direct to consumer niche marketing.
This stretches across all areas. There are many niche areas that are seeing growth and innovation, sometimes very phyiscal led with little digital innovation. At the same time the ebook and online retail revoluation has not stopped, only slowed. I think people can be compliant thinking that the change is over and we have weathered the storm, time to relax. This is not the case. As the quote goes, we overestimate the short term impact of technology and underestimate the long term.
As the true impact is felt across the genres, into non fiction and childrens I think we will see more innovation and disruption. A fiction book in plain text as an e-book is not actually that exciting.
A database of all cocktailbars linked to murder mystery titles with autogenerated text snippets could be much more so. Though, I dont know!
Which are the main differences between the European and the US market in relationship to these themes?
It will vary by country within Europe! Similarly the New York and London book markets are different to Ohio and Scotland. Generally I would say that the US is ahead on the curve for the digital changes, and its digital market has more competition which is healthy.
Europe seems to be more fragmented, and also less information is avaliable between the various markets, atleast from my perspective. There are also markets with price maintenance of varying degrees in operation against others without. The US is more contigous in its market structure and as such changing faster as a single unit.
Ge established wisdom is that US is ahead on the curve of change, but that is not always true and catching up can sometimes overtake with hindsight.
This article was originally published on the September issue of Giornale della Libreria, the official magazine of the Italian Publishers Association.