How to Convert Indirect Customers into Direct Customers
Every digital newspaper, magazine, and book I've ever purchased from an e-retailer share something in common: None of them included a pitch from the publisher to lure me away from the e-retailer and go direct. Not a single one.
This, despite the fact that it's never been easier, or more important, for publishers to diversify their channel strategy and focus on their D2C business, is pretty remarkable. It's even more amazing when you consider that more and more publishers are finally starting to wake up to the importance of either building a D2C channel or fortifying it.
Here's the easiest solution possible for publishers to remedy this situation: Make sure a compelling message from you is the first thing consumers see when they open the indirectly-distributed version of your product. What does that look like?
In general, it's something like this: "Thanks for buying this e-paper/e-mag/ebook. Are you aware of the benefits of buying your next edition/product directly from us? Click here to learn more."
Again, that's the very first thing a reader should see when they open your product. When you do this you'll be using the enormous power and reach of the retailer network to build your own D2C network.
Why doesn't this happen today? The first reason is that most publishers probably haven't even thought of this tactic. The second is that publishers are worried about retailer retaliation if they implement it. If that has you worried, consider this: Can a retailer actually dictate what content is and isn't acceptable in your product? Although Amazon, for example, tends to be extremely bold I think even they would realize this would be overreach on their part.
Would that prevent them from making the publisher feel the pain? Probably not, but it could create a very interesting situation, both legally and in the court of public opinion.
Simply inserting this D2C messaging is only step one, of course. Publishers need to deliver and provide a compelling reason for consumers to buy direct. Here's a hint on how to solve that problem: Make sure the most valuable, feature-rich version of your product is only available direct from you, the publisher. That's not too hard to do, by the way. If you've ever subscribed to an e-newspaper through a digital retailer you know what I mean; the user experience is awful, particularly when compared to the full digital replica edition. Ebooks represent a similar opportunity; publishers should make sure the richest, most compelling edition is only available from them, not third-party retailers.
When will publishers wake up and leverage this approach? Some will, but most won't, largely because of the fear factor noted earlier. The most successful, vibrant publishers of the future will make this a standard practice though and fear of retailer retaliation will disappear.
Joe Wikert is Publishing President at Our Sunday Visitor (www.osv.com). Before joining OSV Joe was Director of Strategy and Business Development at Olive Software. Prior to Olive Software he was General Manager, Publisher, & Chair of the Tools of Change (TOC) conference at O’Reilly Media, Inc., where he managed each of the editorial groups at O’Reilly as well as the Microsoft Press team and the retail sales organization. Before joining O’Reilly Joe was Vice President and Executive Publisher at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., in their P/T division.