Ecommerce: reshaping the book industry

Dr Piyush Kumar, Director, Prabhat Prakashan Pvt. Ltd, shares his views on the role of ecommerce in the book publishing industry.

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E-commerce has revolutionized the publishing industry, transforming the way books are bought, sold, and consumed. The convenience of online platforms has empowered both publishers and readers, creating new opportunities and challenges in the digital era. Here, Dr. Piyush Kumar Director, Prabhat Prakashan Pvt. Ltd. delves into it.

AABP: Describe your current e-commerce strategy? What are the primary goals you aim to achieve through your e-commerce efforts?

Piyush: Our current e-commerce strategy includes:

Leverage social media – Platforms like Instagram and Facebook are very influential in driving traffic and sales. Create shareable content and run targeted ads.

Expand marketing channels – Apart from social media, we also consider SEO, influencer collaborations, paid search ads, retargeting ads, email marketing, etc.

Focus on conversion rate optimization – Ecommerce is a number game. Tiny tweaks to site copy, design, checkout process that increase conversion rates can have a big revenue impact.

AABP: Which e-commerce platforms or technologies are you currently using?

Piyush: We have many platforms from which the major ones include Amazon, Flipkart, Meesho, Jio Mart, Kindle, Ibooks, Google Play Books, Kobo, Google Audio Books, Kuku FM and Pratilipi.

AABP: Have you explored or considered partnerships with other online retailers, bookstores, or platforms to expand your reach?

Piyush: Yes, we are focusing on all book marketing platforms online/offline and libraries. We also promote our titles through blogs, ads, deals, influencers, giveaways, etc. This can generate buzz and reviews to help drive sales.

AABP: What challenges do you currently face in the e-commerce aspect of your publishing business?

Piyush: Discovering new talent: With increased numbers of new authors and self-published works, determining which authors to invest in and bring to market remains as much art as science.

Declining print sales and shifting to digital: As more content and books have moved online, publishers have had to rapidly adapt to digital platforms and e-books, often while still supporting print operations. This digital transition can be costly and difficult.

Competing for attention: With so much content freely available online, publishers have to work harder to make their content stand out and get attention from readers. Standing out from the crowd is increasingly difficult.

Pressure on pricing: Many consumers have come to expect low digital prices. Meanwhile print prices have also faced downward pressure. Finding the right pricing balance remains an ongoing struggle.

Self-publishing competition: The rise of self-publishing provides more competition for readers’ attention and shifts more marketing and distribution responsibilities onto publishers.

Evolving e-book sales: After rapid initial growth, e-book sales have stabilized. Figuring out the right formats and pricing remains a challenge.

Changing distribution models: Distribution models focused on online retail dominate over traditional bookstores. Adapting to these new channel partners continues to require adjustment.

AABP: Do you see any untapped opportunities for growth in your e-commerce operations?

Piyush: Yes, we need to expand to new sales channels, optimize international expansion and build partnerships. Strategic brand collaborations and partnerships with complementary companies can expand awareness. We may also consider affiliate programs, influencer collaborations, and brick-and-mortar store launches. We are also eyeing Whatsapp Marketing.

AABP: What measures do you take to address customer concerns or issues related to online purchases?

Piyush: We have options to contact customer support via phone, email, social media channels, etc to respond promptly. We enable easy returns/exchanges, with pre-paid return shipping labels. We provide detailed product information like high quality images, measurements, pages, binding etc. so customers know what they are getting without confusion We also showcase authentic customer reviews, by enabling customer ratings and reviews, we don’t hide negative feedback. Our motive is to minimize cases of unhappy customers but to also handle them promptly, empathetically and fairly when they do occur. This helps maintain loyalty and positive brand perception.

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