Ingram Blog

Discovery and Conversion: Influencing the Consumer Path to Purchase

By Pete McCarthy, Director of Digital Services
In a digitally-connected world, book marketers will benefit by having a nuanced understanding of the many ways book buyers discover, discuss, compare, purchase, and otherwise engage with books and authors--everything that leads to a consumer finding and buying your book and what you can do to reach and influence them at each stage.

The Book Buyer's Journey

Let's look at the three primary stages of phases of the marketing funnel and some potential consumer touch points and actions along the way. Here are a few examples:

It's important to remember this path is not linear. Consumers aren't always on the lookout for a book. Often, they're just doing things online (etc. using Facebook) and may see someone mention your book - or they may see an ad for your book. In "marketese" they may jump in and out of the funnel at different times, and often via different channels and modalities; so, you need to have a marketing plan designed to address consumers where ever they might be in their path to purchase.

Engaging Consumers in the Funnel Marketing

Marketing, sales, and publicity efforts should all be thoughtfully coordinated to ensure consistent messaging and to reach the right potential buyers, with the right content, at the right time.

Discovery

Ensure that product and brands are present and discoverable in key web and social channels. 

 

  • Via Keyword optimization and search: Search is very often the first point of entry for a consumer. Use search engine optimization practices and keyword research to improve organic search rankings on high-intent keyword phrases in Amazon and Google. Critical to this step is thinking like a reader and using the terminology they will most likely use when looking for what you have. Avoid industry lingo and general terms; "books for girls aged 5-7" is much better than, say, "children's book" or, worse, "young readers" which has no precise meaning to a consumer. There are tools one can use to research how consumers "talk" but a Google search and some pursuing of consumer-written reviews of similar titles will help right away.
  • Via core book and author presence: If a book isn't listed, a consumer won't see it. If an author has no web footprint, a consumer ca't learn more. Make sure you have a strong foundation in place so that when someone is looking, theres something for them to find. A website, a robust Goodreads presence, social presences on key networks all aid in casting a broader net. 
  • Via sales placement, promotions, and merchandising: Just like a stack of books in the front of a bookstore, online promotional placement is a key driver of consumer awareness and sales. Much of this happens via algorithmic "decisions" on e-retail sites like Amazon. Ensuring complete metadata will feed the algorithm, as well as driving consumers to the point of purchase and having them convert. Sales beget sales. 
  • Via inbound and outbound marketing activities: Publicity, events, ads, social media, email marketing, and all of your other marketing efforts contribute to establishing consumer awareness of a book or author. 
Consideration

Ensure that potential buyers find rich, compelling information about the product and brand across the web. 

  • Via search engines: Consumers should find fresh and accurate information in a search result. This includes items like retail links to the book, a complete Wikipedia page for the author (when appropriate), up to date websites from author and/or publisher, links, to recent news mention or events, social media links and status updates and other relevant, useful content. 
  • Via social media: It is key to have a presence. Probably more critical is making sure the presences are well-maintained, up to date and mention the books. Active author and publisher accounts should include frequent posts, scheduled throughout the day to reach readers in different time zones. Books should generate activity as well-likes, comments, reviews, and ratings. Using hashtags that are meaningful to your audience will help ensure that potential readers "know they're in the right place."
  • Via retail product pages: All books should have complete product data, including reviews from trusted sources, a mechanism by which consumers can preview or sample the content, and a detailed, properly structured description. As previously mentioned, descriptions should be optimized to speak the reader's language---connecting the titles to the relevant topics and trends of interest to the book's audience--covering not just what the book is about but what it is (e.g. a thriller) also why a reader should care (e.g. it has lots of twists and turns and can be read in a night). 
Conversion
Ensure that products are attractively positioned to encourage likely buyers to complete that purchase. 
  • Via strong social proof: Professional reviews, awards, bestseller status, and consumer reviews (both within the retail environment and elsewhere) are critical to reinforce quality and establish relevance with potential buyers. 
  • Via content and category-appropriate pricing (and timely promotions): Buyers like to feel like they are getting relative value. Price drops and special deals can provide a boost in sales. (and often a temporary halo effect even after the price is raised again). However, regardless of the selling price, even a perceived discount (e.g. the eBook price marked down from the print list price) has a positive impact on consumer psychology. Look at comparable titles to get a sense of what might enable your title to best compete. 
  • Via quick, predictable availability: Products should always be in stock, available for purchase and ready to "ship" (whether physically or virtually) as quickly as possible. Any delay or unexpected consumer experience in the receipt of the purchase will negatively impact conversion rates. 
  • Via a clear "why to buy": All of your marketing and sales efforts ultimately lead to this final decision point. Ensure that you address the question clearly in all your messaging with straightforward calls to action. 
The above tactics should help you to place your books online in such a way that it is appealing to as many of the right readers as possible. After that, it is a matter of responding to what happens and adjusting accordingly. Optimizing for discovery and conversion never ends. What works in May might not in December. Keep and eye on things and don't be afraid to make changes as you learn.