Where there's brand crisis there's opportunity – Bookworld opens up

James McGrath
By James McGrath | 1 July 2015

So you're an online brand spun out of a legacy bricks and mortar play, you acquire customers that are pre-disposed toward being pissed off at you and you have to establish a new brand in market. Good luck.

That's the dilemma which faced Bookworld, which was spun out of the Angus and Robertson bookstore chain in Australia, a legacy player in the space. When it, along with Borders and Whitcoulls were closed off in 2011 and effectively replaced by the purely online Bookworld.

Those with long memories will remember that Borders and Angus and Robertson went through a storm of controversy when it emerged that they would not be honouring gift cards unless people effectively paid double.

For example, people wanting a $40 dollar book had to use a $20 gift card and $20 in cash, but couldn't use a $40 gift card to purchase the same book.

It's in the swirl of controversy that CEO James Webber had to step in and try and create a new brand in market on a shoestring budget.

“Post Borders, yes, we did have customers who were pissed off because of the Borders thing,” Webber admitted to AdNews. “Some stayed with us through that because we had a great range and operated well, but there were those who were marred by the experience and wouldn't come back to that brand.”

But in crisis there was opportunity – namely being the opportunity to try and strike out a new brand identity.

“What we did have was a brand name that nobody had heard of, that was our challenge,” Webber said.

The first step, he said, was to create a great offer for customers. He says the online book market is “essentially a commodity-driven market”, so it put in price-matching guarantees against Amazon, which Webber sees as its key competitor in the market.

“When we set up the business we started to build our proposition. It was around 'tickets to the game'. You had to be price-competitive, so we set up an Amazon price guarantee,” Webber said.

“We had to have a good range. It's not as big as Amazon, but we have a bigger range of Australian product. Then we had speed of fulfilment because we along with Random House had the biggest book shed in the country.”

It then established a loyalty reward program, under which purchasers could become 'citizens' of Bookworld. Key to this was the offer of 10% off all purchases, and while it was partially about attracting new customers it was also about data segmentation.

But what you had to do is give us some information about your reading habits. We got very strong sign-up to that program, and that was vital because we then got information about them [customers] and were able to segment and target. That's an important driver for us,” Webber said.

It also recently unveiled an offer whereby loyalty customers referred to as “Citizens” would get free delivery on orders over $30.

With the offer in place, the missing piece of the puzzle was the marketing.

“To create loyalty, people need to know you'll have what they want, you'll deliver it quickly and you're not going to stick them on price,” Webber said.

“Once you've created the offer, you want people to remember you. That's where the tone of voice of all our marketing comes in.”

It has struck out in three key categories – social media, content marketing, and the good old fashioned EDM.

Due to it's shoestring budget, its current social media team stands at a grand total of one person.

“It's not like it's an intern sitting in the corner doing our social media or anything,” Webber said, “but they've been with us for a couple of years now and we've worked hard on the tone of voice we're hoping to put out there.”

He said a concious decision was made at this point to skew younger, to try and tap a new audience for books, and a concious swerve away from the Angus and Robertson image of old.

“Early on we invested a lot on social media. It's not what you get an immediate return on, I mean, if you looked at it in a cold hard financial light you'd try to re-allocate it to SEM and other channels which have more immediate returns,” Webber said.

“But if you've got a new brand and you want reach, tone of voice, and message I think social is a very good platform to do that.”

With social media locked down, it needed to give people a reason to engage – and this is where its content marketing efforts came in handy.

One of these is the bus stop experiential campaign, which won a MFA Award last year.

The campaign saw Bookworld, in conjunction with Ikon Communications, install bookshelves at bus stops in Melbourne ad Sydney.

Bookworld's bustop campaign in Sydney and Melbourne led to a 44% uplift in Christmas sales against the previous year.

“It was great to get people directly aware,” Webber said “but it worked as a piece of content too.”

“We wanted to do something different. On a limited budget we wanted to ask what we could do, and one thing we didn't have was proximity to customers.

“That led to the idea of making it live to make the store come to them, and then using social to get the reach.”

It followed up with another piece of content where the bookshelf was taken to the outback town of Dirranbandi.

It also leans on its relationships with authors to provide content too. It is able to leverage relationships with specific authors, as its owner, Pearson, also owns Penguin, a notable publisher.

“So we're quite often working with authors in creating content, whether that's a short video piece or whatever,” Webber said.

“Obviously they have an interest in selling books, and these authors also have massive social followings so we're able to leverage that quite well.”

However, there's still one old-school channel Bookworld is using that capitalises on its Citizen program.

“One of our biggest channels of marketing is EDMs. Because we have our readers and we know what their reading habits are, so we can very quickly send targeted emails out,” Webber said.

“EDM still works. I think the only issue with it is that when it started, not many people were doing it. Not many people had loads of emails arriving in the morning, but now people have more emails that they can do with.

“So to get people to open your email and get people engaged in it it's a lot harder, and to do that you have to be a lot more engaging and offer them something. It's not blasting one email to everybody.”

 CEO James Webber will be speaking at the Online Retailer Conference and E-Commerce Expo taking place July 22-23.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at adnews@yaffa.com.au

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

Read more about these related brands, agencies and people

comments powered by Disqus