Our half-year results are in and sales are up at eBooks.com by 19.7 per cent compared with last year.
At the same time ebook sales more broadly are apparently declining. AAP, the US publishers’ trade body, just reported that ebook sales for the 11 months to November 2017 were down by 5.5 per cent.
So why are we growing when the ebook market still seems to be in decline?
- Our visitor numbers are up, but not by a margin that would explain the uptick in income.
- Some of the growth is due to steadily rising sales of textbooks and professional titles on eBooks.com. This trend, as we described recently, was unplanned and a pleasant surprise. But, again, it still doesn’t explain the bulk of the growth.
- Finally, no particular region or territory accounts for this. Sales are up generally in all our markets.
Let’s look at what eBooks.com has been doing that might account for this.
Why sales are up at eBooks.com
For two years our Chief Website Guru, Tas Galib, has been focussed squarely on simplifying our customers’ experience, through every step of discovering, buying, accessing and managing their ebooks. At every point we’re stripping out clutter.
Our proprietary reader apps, hand-crafted by Maestro Sean McHale, are faster, more feature-rich and more stable than ever.
The help desk response time, in the hands of Alex Turvey, is way better than benchmark.
Monthly purchase transactions divided by help desk tickets is a very useful metric and we’re killing it now.
From the blistered fingers of Matthew Dunlop, King of Code, we will be launching an entirely new eBooks.com website in the summer with a focus on mobile functionality, to enable our customers to get the most out of ebooks on their phones and tablets.
In summary, we keep listening to our customers and doing what makes them happy. The development list isn’t getting any shorter, but that means that we actually do know what to do to retain and grow our audience.
We have, it must be said, kept something of a low profile over the years. While a retiring nature might be a virtue in, say, a curate, it turns out not to be a driver of revenue for an online retailer.
It got to the point where I received a message from one of our oldest customers asking why she never hears from us. That was a sign.
Over the last year we have created and deployed an in-house, highly targeted “bulletin” platform which generates ad hoc email messages to keep our customers informed about new titles of particular interest to them, remind them about abandoned carts (incredibly effective), newly discounted titles, and so on. And in recent weeks we’ve integrated that bulletin platform into the Ebook Reader app for Android, with early, positive results. Now there are hundreds of thousands of our customers all around the world getting jolly pop-up notifications from us on their phones.
Who knew preaching to the converted could be so rewarding?
Our search marketing team, headed by Benedict Noel, has been booking some extraordinary results recently.
Pay-per-click campaigns are notorious for their tendency to deliver results to the platform (facebook, Google, etc.) but not to the advertiser. Through an unrelenting process of research, trial and error, we’re now achieving a return on investment of 7.6 times. Meaning, for every dollar we spend on PPC, we derive $7.60 in sales.
As with usability and preaching to the converted, there’s no end to the opportunities in outbound marketing. There’s still a lot to do with Twitter, Pinterest, fake news …
We’re a family-run business and we take a long, even generational, view, and that gives us the luxury of cautious experimentation.
We’ll keep on executing on our plans to please and delight our customers and hopefully that will please all our stakeholders.