Personalizing the E-Book Transaction [1]

In response to e-book purchases, and to encourage return sales, many IndieCommerce bookstores are sending individualized or automated thank-you e-mails to customers.

When customers choose to shop at Petoskey, Michigan’s McLean & Eakin Booksellers [3], “we want to let them know their decision to shop with us means a lot, and I feel it should be no different for e-books,” said store co-owner Matt Norcross.”

Every first time e-book buyer gets a thank-you sent from Norcross or another McLean & Eakin bookseller. After that, responses vary. “I don’t want them to think I’m stalking them or keeping track of every book they buy,” Norcross said.

The store’s current thank-you for an e-book purchase also thanks the customer for buying local and pitches McLean & Eakin as competitive on price:

Thank you so much for choosing to shop with us online, I’m so glad you’ve chosen to buy your e-books from McLean & Eakin!  Please know that you’ll find our e-book prices every bit as competitive as the bigger guys but we offer something they can’t, the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting a Michigan business. I hope you enjoy your book and don’t hesitate to give us a call or reply to this email if you have any questions.

Matt

P.S.  We’ll have updates to our website coming soon, among them the ability to retain you credit card data for a faster check experience... stay tuned! 

Norcross noted that expressing appreciation helps McLean & Eakin stay connected with its customers. “I feel it’s important for us to reach out to customers in ways the big guys can’t, and this is one such way. We also handwrite a thank you note and include it in each package that is sent out. If we get to the level of business where this is no longer possible that would be great! Until such time there is no reason we shouldn’t take the extra step to make the customer feel special.”

At Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore [4], the website fulfillment manager looks at e-book sales every few days and responds with a template-based message to each one, said store co-owner Jessica Stockton Bagnulo. The thank you includes the customer’s name and specific notations that might apply to them.

It personalizes the transaction, said Stockton Bagnulo via e-mail. “As with print books, we know that customers can buy e-books virtually anywhere; we hope they buy books from us because we give them something more. We wanted to bring something of the Greenlight experience to e-book purchasing, so we decided to acknowledge each one with a personal note.”

Though e-book purchasing is handled automatically by the website and staff doesn’t have to do anything, Stockton Bagnulo said, “we wanted to give customers a sense of a real person on the other side — something like the humanizing experience of being in an indie bookstore.”

The practice also forces Greenlight to keep an eye on e-book sales and trends, she added.   

Tempe Arizona’s Changing Hands Bookstore [5] sends an automated response to e-book purchasers that encourages return visits. Store co-owner Bob Sommer explained that the thank you serves “to remind first-time e-book buyers that they need to make subsequent orders via our website, not through the app they just downloaded on their reader.”

The store’s note succinctly explains that to support Changing Hands, e-book purchases must be conducted through the Changing Hands website:

“For many of our customers, part of the appeal of Google eBooks™ is the ability to support Changing Hands in the digital world. If you agree, instead of buying your next e-book using the Google app on your mobile device, please return to changinghands.com [6] every time you shop for e-books.”

Each of the booksellers who spoke with BTW reported that they are getting return customers for e-books.

Does a thank-you note boost sales? “We have had a couple of customers thank us specifically for sending the note, and for the whole experience,” said Stockton Bagnulo. “So that’s gratifying.  It’s hard to tell if it has a direct effect on return sales, but we do have several regular e-book customers, and their numbers seem to be growing.”

For instructions on how to set up an automated response on an IndieCommerce site, go here [7]. For IndieCommerce Technical Support, contact staff@bookweb.org [8].