While the Bookshop website to benefit bookstores that belong to the American Booksellers Association received a lot of attention in the weeks leading up to Winter Institute, it’s not the only technological innovation for indie booksellers that is about to launch. Last week at Winter Institute, Above the Treeline presented Edelweiss360, which gives independents an easier way to send out customized emails in lieu of Mailchimp or Constant Contact. A second, related component offers bookstores their own branded mobile-friendly website, and will soon enable booksellers to replace it with a branded app. Customers can log in with Twitter or Facebook, and booksellers can sell books directly to them.
Like Bookshop,Treeline’s new product grew out of a bookseller conversation at Winter Institute. Last year at WI 14 in Albuquerque Nicole Magistro, owner of the Bookworm of Edwards in Edwards, Colo., approached Treeline founder John Rubin about finding a way to compete with Amazon’s targeted e-mail book recommendations to her store’s customers. The recommendations generated by Amazon’s search engine through e-mails and on its site, generate a significant portion of the etailer’s revenue, noted Rubin.
In addition to giving indies a chance to share in this revenue stream with much more targeted e-mails based on their knowledge of their customers, Rubin said, “we always envisioned a ‘Goodreads for the indies.’” The mobile website that Treeline is developing will enable customers to rate a book and comment on it—and in the process create their own online community.
But Rubin has another goal in mind as well, to allow indies to share in publishers’ marketing offers. At present roughly 70% of publisher consumer marketing dollars, or offers, go to Amazon, he said, and Rubin has begun conversations with publishers to change that. He sees revenue from these offers as compensation for showrooming. Booksellers will be able to opt out if they don’t want to participate.
One of the draws of Edelweiss360 for booksellers, who already use e-mail programs to reach out to customers, is the speed with which they can put together a marketing email. Not only can they select the customers to receive the mailing in Edelweiss, but the contents of the mailing, including cover and jacket art and copy, are all in the same program. In addition, they can get data on how many people open the email, how many click on a link, conversions (or books purchased), and halos (purchases of other books and products at the same time).
Chris Morrow, owner of Northshire Books in Manchester Center, Vt., who beta tested Edelweiss360 over the holidays, said that after doing three or four mailings, it got a lot easier. “My main appreciation of this,” he added, “[is that] we’ve had all this customer data for years, and we’ve never been able to use it. With this I could create a good customized email campaign in five to 10 minutes.” The week before Christmas he set up a mailing to sell eight copies of the $150 edition of Michelle Obama’s Becoming. They went quickly and over the course of several targeted mailings he sold a total of 622 books, valued at close to $14,000 at retail.
Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., was one of a number of booksellers who said after the presentation that they are “excited” about Edelweiss360. In her case, she is more interested in the personalized mailings than the app, at least for now. She already has a system to contact customers when the next book in a series they bought arrives at the store. “The app is great,” she said. “But I already do these marketing emails that are time consuming. I’ve wanted this [a way to do quick branded mailings] for a long time. And that community aspect has a lot of potential.”
Others said that they would have trouble using the product to its full potential because they stopped keeping customer data when the Patriot Act was passed in the wake of 9/11. To make Edelweiss360 effective, they would need to have lists of what books customers have previously bought to recommend new titles. But some are beginning to reconsider that earlier decision so they can track purchases again.
Publishers, too, were excited about the new Treeline product. “This felt like a transformational moment,” said long-time HarperCollins rep Kate McCune. “It’s the way I felt when I first saw Edelweiss. This new tool supercharges working with customer data in the way Edelweiss did with inventory. It’s a step towards leveling the playing field with Amazon.”
Treeline will continue beta testing Edelweiss360 this winter. Booksellers who would like to participate can text Edelweiss360 to 22828. The product will launch in May at BookExpo.