Previously published on Digital Book World's website
By Marcus Woodburn
The evolution of book buying continues to progress from a physical, pick-and-pay method of retailing to a highly sophisticated form of a digital, buy-on-demand model. With the help of native retailing through platforms, a seller is able to reach potential customers wherever they are and wherever they interact with a book.
Publishers have traditionally been disassociated from their readers, bookstores and sales outlets (brick-and-mortar, digital or otherwise) seeing only orders go out and returns come back, rarely ever knowing the actual buyer. As a result, no customer data circulated back to the publisher, who could have used that knowledge to create better products and services, and improved its position in the market. With this model, pricing was always in the hands of a third party. Or the perceived value of the book was in the hands of the third party. Pricing was largely out of the publisher’s control.
Purchasing a book from any online site anywhere is what native retailing is all about. These types of platforms allow publishers, authors and booksellers to promote books with a direct “buy” link on any website or social media site. They can also provide publishers the ability to promote their titles to customers and then redirect them to their own publisher or other storefronts. The flexibility of native retailing is beneficial for publishers, authors and consumers alike.
For publishers, native retailing means learning more about the customer. What is the customer buying? What is the customer reading? Are they a repeat customer? What’s the age demographic? How about the geographic location? It’s all potentially captured through native retailing. In turn, publishers can use that information to engage readers, tailor marketing campaigns and specialize bonus content to differentiate their sale.
Authors, in particular, can benefit from native retailing through social marketing. With native retailing, authors become their own online booksellers via their websites and social media sites. They can reach their fans directly to promote their content—or any content that they want to recommend—and sell immediately at whatever point of engagement the consumer finds. Imagine authors hosting a real-time social media chat that features “buy” buttons directing consumers to their latest release? Or what about the potential benefits authors gain from sending out marketing e-flyers that provide book previews and a way to purchase the new release? Native retailing provides opportunities for viral selling.
The same capabilities are available to any bookstore (or any “anything” store for that matter, even libraries or conferences). Customer engagement around an in-store reading or a list of recommended books can be tied to buy buttons for both physical and digital books.
The secret to success when it comes to native retailing is the ability to marry a commerce platform and a fulfillment platform. That’s what happened in late 2015 when Ingram Content Group purchased Aer.io. We were able to extend the sales presence of anyone with a web presence—whether a publisher, author, blogger or bookseller—to provide the full 14 million plus titles at Ingram. Aer.io had the diverse marketplace model, and Ingram had the immense distribution and fulfillment capability.
We’ve only just begun to explore the range of possibilities that native retailing promises. There’s a new paradigm in retail, and it’s easy to take control of your sales and your customers.