The shop-centred publishing house

We, Ebner Verlag, produce information for clearly defined target groups. Volunteer fire brigades, musicians, graphic designers, printers, fans of luxury mechanical timepieces, masons, opticians. This can be done in written form, as a magazine, special edition, or book. But just as well in one of our portals, in one of our blogs, somewhere in the world of social media, or in our seminars, webinars, and congresses. Or with our digital newsletters. And naturally as a digital compilation in the form of newly bundled eDossiers or individual downloadable articles. We must address the target groups with different product configurations there where people from these target groups move. In this environment, the multi-channel publishing of magazines or even books can be recognised as a channel to the customer, but it is neither adequate nor suitable for ubiquitous access.

Online shop ()

This has produced an unsatisfactory situation for our company. For years we have been increasing our reach in all B2B and special interest target groups. We are reaching more people than ever before. But this did not produce more business, because the suitable distribution channel was lacking. As a result, we had to build it ourselves. Three years ago we started developing our own e-commerce platforms.

Today we consider ourselves to be a shop-centered publisher. All our content offers lead to the shop and all our products can be purchased here. Here it doesn’t matter what type of products they are: classic magazines as a single edition or by subscription, digital downloads and newsletters in exchange for registering or payment, event tickets, various physical products of all configurations.

The advantages of the e-commerce platform are alluring. Firstly, it is always available from anywhere. A great advantage over any kiosk or book store.

Then the integration in all other publishing activities is an invaluable advantage. So every shop product is provided with the appropriate tags and thus described exactly. We can then use these tags to advertise the shop products on our portals or in our newsletters if the subject fits the context. Algorithms define when which product is advertised. Instead of placing just any advertising messages, we can display exactly the message that fits the context and thus have an increased chance of being noticed in the media channel in realtime. We call this system “shop widgets”. With this mechanism of contextual relevance, we achieve a higher conversion rate: 17 per cent of all people that are steered to the shop by the widgets make a purchase.

In the shop we can sell single editions, special editions, subscriptions, or books. But also digital downloads, whether single articles, newly bundled eDossiers from used contents, sound files, or completely digitised publications. Tickets for seminars, webinars, congresses. And naturally every form of physical products – we sell mobile phone cases for firemen made from recycled fire hoses. Or special models of mechanical timepieces, effects units for guitarists.

The shop allows us to offer our AboPlus programme by means of a Central Authentication System (CAS). This gives the subscriber access to all publications that are available completely digitised in the archive. He also has all the download products ever downloaded by him available in his library and by single sign-on access to the tablet and smart phone versions of his magazine. A service that we would not be able to offer without a shop. This no longer has anything to do with classic selling.

In the shop itself, with permanent access, we can increase not only the conversion rate, but also the revenue. We use A/B tests to optimise the presentation of our products continuously. We can set prices according to demand or highlight offers at certain times. So we achieve the best purchases from our target group of firemen Sunday afternoons between 2pm and 3pm.After lunch they check their computers and in the best case buy something. Such learned optimisations are nothing new to e-commerce, and have rather been the standard for a while. But for traditional publishing houses a rather strange world.

Therefore we have engaged shop managers that are charged with the constant enhancement of our product range. And we have completely reorganised the former sales division. Today it is called “Trade and Distribution Management (TDM)”. The choice of words alone indicates that other challenging assignments must be accomplished than just coordinating domestic sales or managing subscriptions.

That is all well and good. But still only part of what has to be done. For it is crucial to broaden our reach, to take advantage of marketing, and to purposely steer customers to the shop. Conversion through communication. To do this, we turn to content marketing methods. But when we say content marketing, we mean the practical, empirically tested workflows and systems that we have learnt in the USA. Here in Germany the discussion remains stuck too readily in ideologically pretentious debates on principle. This typically Teutonic concept of defining first instead of acting can hardly help any more. But the hands-on attitude of the Americans can help. In order to apply these approaches directly to our daily work, we have taken a radical step at the very beginning. 25 editors were relieved of their classic duties, were given a new job description, were trained thoroughly, and were sent to Boston to the Mequoda Group, a consulting firm we esteem very highly. Now the new title of their job is “Transaction Editor”. This describes rather exactly what it is about. The task of these ladies and gentlemen is to trigger transactions. This can be greater utilisation of our online products, an increase in website traffic, or a targeted promotion of sales. One thing is clear: writing just for the sake of writing is no longer required. Information should rather trigger additional steps by the user.

To this end, all transaction editors have been trained in the analysis of search behaviour in search machines, in the writing of evergreen content, in SEO and SEM, in embedded marketing, and also in the design of saleable added-value products.

With this “Special Operations Force” we have succeeded in creating a target-oriented process in the entire company from the beginning. Today all our editors know that contents must meet targets. Greater reach, more conversion, more visibility – the target definitions can be manifold. The main thing is that targets are set. And at the end of this content marketing chain is always the shop, for here the user will ideally find additional information or the desired product right away.

In an interplay of multi-platform publishing, contextual relevance, transaction orientation, and shop, we will always succeed in selling more products. Especially content products. Subscriptions, single editions, special editions, newly bundled eDossiers, or single articles. 86% of all orders we received in 2015 come through the eShop, and only 14 per cent were submitted offline. A total of 220.000 orders had to be processed. For our narrow target groups that is a thoroughly significant figure. The number of orders increased 38.9 per cent compared to 2014, and the shop turnover by 99.7 per cent. The average order value could be increased by 43.8 per cent. It is the active management of these key figures that will increase the future success of our company significantly.

We have regained access to our customers. Thanks to the e-commerce platform that is available to us today and the use of the principles of content marketing. Whilst others argue over the decline of printing, we are using the power of the content.

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