IndieCommerce Institute Agenda Includes Revamping E-mail Newsletters to Generate Sales

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Booksellers who would like to learn how to generate more sales through their store’s e-mail newsletters are encouraged to register for the American Booksellers Association’s IndieCommerce Institute at this year’s Winter Institute in Memphis, Tennessee.

Winter Institute logoTips on segmenting the newsletter audience, boosting sales of books in specific genres, and promoting store events through e-mail are among the topics that will be covered in one of four sessions as part of the day-long IndieCommerce Institute on Monday, January, 22.

“If you’re not sending a newsletter at all, you will learn about the services out there that you can use to collect e-mail addresses and send out a newsletter. If you are sending out a newsletter, then hopefully you’re going take away some tips you might not have thought of and suggestions for improvement,” said ABA IndieCommerce Specialist Ryan Quinn, who will lead the morning session on “E-mail Subscription, Marketing, and Promotional Campaigns.”

Booksellers can register for either the morning or afternoon IndieCommerce Institute seminars, or both. The other morning session will focus on optimizing checkout pages for higher sales conversions; the afternoon seminar will ­cover Google Analytics and Drupal Views. Winter Institute registration is not required to attend the IndieCommerce Institute.

Ryan Quinn
Ryan Quinn

Quinn said that during her session, she aims to help booksellers learn how to evaluate e-mail marketing services and how to sort customers into different groups to create newsletters tailored to their interests.

“If you send out your newsletter and half of your mailing list doesn’t open it because it doesn’t contain information they are interested in, you’ve wasted time putting it together and sending it out,” Quinn said. “Your open rates are probably not great because so many people are ignoring it, and you’re losing the chance to get them either into your store or to your website to actually purchase something they are interested in.”

She will also provide examples from stores that are generating sales through their e-mail newsletters. “Along with the information that I’m going to be giving out, I’ve surveyed our members with successful newsletters, and we have advice and tips from them as well,” Quinn said.

Booksellers who participated in the December 14 online marketing roundtable hosted by ABA’s IndieCommerce team also discussed the benefits of segmenting e-mail newsletters rather than sending out a single one-size-fits-all version.

Peter Makin, co-owner of Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Michigan, said he tracks which links customers click on in his newsletter to better target their interests in future e-mail communications.

He sometimes even sends out a specialized e-mail to just a few dozen people. “If it’s some kind of signed YA book, you’ll sell that in a few hours because you’re reaching people with a thing they’ve already told you they are interested in. That’s how easy it is,” Makin said.

Makin’s experience shows that e-mailing fans of particular authors or genres is much more effective than a generic message. “When you say to someone, ‘Here’s the thing you’re interested in, would you like to shop for it now?’ they tend to say yes,” he said. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting to very granular levels.”

IndieCommerce Director Phil Davies said his team can help booksellers learn how to target their e-mail communications, for example, to shoppers who have already shown a willingness to buy from the store.

“Segmentation really helps with the effectiveness of the newsletter list,” Davies said. “If you can pull out the folks who are purchasing from your site versus the folks who are just signing up on the homepage, you could reward the ones who are purchasing at some point, maybe by giving a five percent in store coupon. It’s definitely an opportunity.”

Carol Spurling, owner of BookPeople of Moscow in Moscow, Idaho, was one of several participants in the online roundtable who were interested in learning how to segment their e-mail newsletters after hearing about successful examples.

“Right now, I have one big, general list,” Spurling said, but learning about e-mail segmentation is on her to-do list.

ABA hosts the 30-minute videoconference roundtables at 11:00 a.m. EST on two Thursdays a month; the next roundtable is on January 11. Stores do not need to be part of the IndieCommerce program to participate — all ABA members are invited to join in. Booksellers who would like to participate can send an invite request to [email protected].

Booksellers interested in participating in the IndieCommerce Institute should sign up now. Booksellers who have already registered for the Institute should keep an eye out for a January 10 e-mail containing important information about their registration.

The ABA’s IndieCommerce team is also offering one-on-one sessions with a program specialist to discuss IndieCommerce and IndieLite at Winter Institute. Booksellers can schedule an appointment from Tuesday, January 23, through Thursday, January 25. Walk-ins will also be welcome, space and time permitting.