Getting ready for Christmas 2018 — August member meeting report

Our Christmas planning special  meeting was packed with useful information and helpful tips from the significance of Christmas for Waterstones in terms of sales and profitability, insight into the  online consumer behaviour from the BigShout, Christmas gift book sales statistics 2017 from NielsenBook  and how they did it Christmas case study on The Book of Dust with PRH.  This was top and tailed by a 30-second pitch on Daisy and the Six and the four #BMSShoutOuts we have picked.

30-second pitch: Daisy Jones and the Six, Celeste Bard-West, PRH Cornerstone

Daisy Jones and the Six will be released in January 2019. It follows the rise and fall of a band in the music scene. It is an all-consuming telling of their fortune of fame. Every teenage girl wants to be Daisy Jones. It touches on whether your marriage, music or right to be heard is important. Reese Witherspoon said she “devoured this in a day, falling head over heels for Daisy” and her production company has entered into a co-production with Amazon Studios for this title. Early readers have likened to it to Netflix.

Sandra Taylor, Head of PR & Events at Waterstones on the retail landscape

How significant is Christmas for Waterstones?

  • The importance of Christmas cannot be overstated with December accounting for 62% of sales. Easter and December are the profitable periods, with the sales in the last full four weeks of Christmas last year higher than the months of Jan to April. This year the busiest day will be on Saturday 22 December (ideally there will be bad weather!)
  • Lots of shoppers start building their Christmas lists around half term particularly in shopping centres and high street shops. However, how can we encourage non-book buyers into the shops? Alex Ferguson auto-biography had wide appeal for non-readers as well as readers he did lots of bookshop events etc. The  GHCQ Puzzle Book also had a wide audience.
  • Christmas day is not the end of Christmas shopping. How do you attract them to your specific titles? In previous years a shortlist has been drawn up from bookseller nominations for Book of the year and the winner is announced in December and is advertised. Book of Dust sold 30,000 copies in December alone.

What are your online questions for Christmas?

  • Last year we launched a Christmas microsite, which looked quite different from the usual website.  It was very successful as it increased traffic to the site by 10% and online revenue by 16%. So we will be taking the same approach again this year.
  • We launched our student awards loyalty card and will be launching Waterstones Plus on 20 August a successor to both the Waterstones Card and our Stamp & Save.  Central to the scheme is the email Loyalty customers receive as we can recommend titles of interest and reading recommendations, as well as the Waterstones Weekly Newsletter which was started a year ago and is sent out on Mondays.  Email marketing is up by 30% and there has been an increase in click and collect. There is a growing correlation with the less-spotted titles. Open rate 40% for Book of the Month, 38.7% vs. 24% for single less spotted titles.
  • We are getting better at content as recent campaigns have shown: The Colour of Time eluded through graphics the idea of gifting it to an expert or a novice resulted in us selling around 300 copies which was not too bad; The Tales of Beedle the Bard was great to work with its illustrations making it easier for us to design things quickly; House of Lies, we tried half price time restriction very early on and this led to  more pre-orders for this title than other titles.

What should you be thinking about now?

  • Link to Waterstones in your social media campaigns. With The World of Cycling, its author Gareth Thomas tweeted and it resulted in us selling all 451 books equal to the miles he had cycled. It does not work for all books but it is more successful with celebrities. It sometimes works for literary authors.
  • Don’t forget the basics. Make sure sales, marketing & publicity are joined up. Let our teams know when there are big moments in the pipeline (interviews, media, events etc.) likely to cause a spike in sales. Are you feeding the right information to the sales team?
  • Timing crucial and we want as much notice as possible. Tell us ASAP. Remember to offer incentives.

Activities and events

Throughout the autumn there are loads of activities arranged by our stores, involving talks with marketers and working with them on author platforms, producing materials for shop windows. Children’s marketers usually provide us with activity packs so adult marketers could take a lead from this. Help make it easier for our booksellers to have a good event. For example,  with Forever and a Day, as the author was not available the marketing team put roulette in the window of the Waterstones Piccadilly.

We are encouraging all our shops to run Christmas evenings.  Waterstones Piccadilly holds a big event, so see what you can offer in the way of extras to encourage engagement. We should have a list of events happening around the stores by end of September. We will be told by our regional managers and will be putting it on listings.com. Local authors will be approached. Publishers can get in touch keeping in mind that it is Christmas titles that we are trying to sell.

Jaclyn Swope, Nielsen Book on Christmas Buying

  • In 2017 26m books were bought at Christmas, 60% of which were bought for children, with 56% for children aged 12 and under.
  • Christmas books account for 10% of the annual print market, 16% of children book print market and 9% of non-fiction books are bought as gifts.
  • Humour was the leading non-fiction category for 17-24s, cookery for 25-44s, Auto/biography for the 45+. Humour books influenced by browsing, while cookery and autobiography have TV, Film Author interviews.
  • Humour books bought more in Amazon and by 18-75 year-olds. In all the categories of children’s books, except annuals, Amazon is the retailer with highest purchases. Whereas, WH Smith is the highest retailer for children’s annuals sales. Non-fiction sales tend to come through independents. Recommendations appear higher in non-fiction sales.
  • Parents were highest for buying groups, followed by grandparents and other relatives. A high percentage of non-fiction was bought by grandparents and other relatives.

Jacyln has kindly provided a breakdown by genre of books bought as Christmas gifts in 2017. For access click here.

Daniel Collins, The Big Shot, talking online consumer behaviour

Worked on campaigns for Penguin House in online consumer behaviour.  Account director at the Big Shot, left last year but returned.  He brought in a new team working across a range of brands. What we do is creative marketing, content marketing, influencer marketing.  It is not about digital marketing, it is about how we market effectively in a digital world. Stopping the divide between online and physical.

Predictions for Christmas 2018

  • PWC report Christmas 2018: Naughty & nice learnings from 2017 for 2018 success revealed how we really shop. Black Friday promotions are driven by online sales. Shoppers are increasingly spending more on treating themselves, than family, through experiences or products. Customers build confidence from engagement and they tend to prefer experience.
  • From our Content State of Mind Research commissioned just after Christmas 2017 we asked about advertisements and found that four out of five find them annoying.

Joining up the journey

  • Therefore, when planning a campaign think of a journey joining together all the different channels. With Telegraph, Times, and Guardian, cut through the noise and create a journey. Social media remains the strongest platforms: 70% Facebook 54% YouTube 35% Twitter 16% Snapchat.
  • An example is A bright Girl can do experiences. We need to outreach for the audience to get the content. How can we immerse the audience in engaging to the extent that they will buy the book? We found that less produced graphics were more popular.
  • New channels to consider this Christmas are Spotify and Teads. Spotify has a minimum buy of £10K, radio advert on Spotify can see trackable data, strong targeting for audiobooks. Teads are also good for weaving in video and high user-targeting. Target them by articles or content they read i.e. if frequent ebook buyers then push ebooks.
  • Desktop a much higher return than mobile for Amazon Affiliate links in 2017.

Tell a Relevant Story

  • With social platforms, match on social interest, target and retarget previous campaigns at Christmas. Use this targeting to your advantage in creating campaigns that can tell a story. Engaging formats to push sales.

The power of Influence

  • Recommendations are one of the best-trusted pieces of marketing that push purchases. In a survey on social influences in January, we found 20% of 25-54 year-olds trust social influences 16-24 also believe with 15% trusting paid influencers. Even 35-44 year-olds get it with 11% happy to pay for the product via paid influences.

Jannine Saunders from PRH will present a case study on “The Book of Dust”

The Book of Dust was published in October and became a Number 1 bestseller. Six key learnings from the campaign:

Think Clearly

  • Think big (No 1 in bestseller charts), think scalability and think flexibly. Be aware of the publishing bubble and make sure you reach a mainstream consumer.

Know your audience and how to read them

  • Our strategy was to use retail stores as our main advertising for this campaign. The majority of advertising spend was on points of sale material. Three waves starting from June until the last one in December.

Excitement is contagious

  • We wanted to harness three key audience excitements to drive buzz pre-publications. Retailers and booksellers, media, Pullman fans, deadlines can be your friend! The cover and points of sale materials deadlines driving momentum. Once the conversation has started then keep it going from June through to December. We notified all the retailers our intentions and therefore managed to ensure space for the book way before any other title. We worked with Waterstones and redesigned its logo as well as a beautiful banner for their website. When the book was announced as Waterstones Book of the Year, we redesigned everything.
  • Big shout out to the wonderful booksellers. We took on their requests and 80 shops put on their own events across the country. It is important to foster this kind of community spirit.

Show that them what you’ve got

  • The #Title reveal resulted in 2,000 pre-orders and blanket coverage. This was followed by an extract in the Guardian in May (without the cover) and revealed the cover in June followed by the narrator of the audiobook. However, don’t spoil it for the fans keep something back

Maximize your activity

  • We partnered with Experience Oxfordshire to create a Philip Pullman Tour of Oxford, invited journalists along and held a special event at the Bodleian Libraries to launch the book, which was streamed through Facebook to thousands of fans. The entire event was filmed and sent out to retailers.

Feed the Future

  • La Belle Sauvage is book one of a series of three, therefore we need to grow the Pullman Facebook page, create and grow a Pullman newsletter to  Introduce a new generation into the world of Pullman through the middle-grade titles.

To download the presentations from this meeting click here.