By Jerry Lynch, President, MBR
Recent years have seen unprecedented change in both bricks-and-mortar retail and magazine and book publishing.
In addition to competition for consumers’ time from digital media and mobile devices, our category — like other general merchandise and front-end impulse-driven categories — has faced challenges associated with reduced store sizes, a shift in emphasis from center store to perimeter, and self-checkout and self-scan options.
Those of us in publishing, distribution and marketing are well aware that these still-rapidly-evolving dynamics can contribute to diminished category space and interest among our retail partners.
But that’s only one side of the story. We also know that magazines and books have unique strengths that help retailers attract, engage and build loyalty with today’s consumers, as well as increase basket sizes.
In fact, with consumers seeking transparency and credible information more than ever — not only in news, but in content including celebrity and entertainment updates, as health, cooking, home décor and all manner of DIY content — our products have never been more valuable, or valued. Our publications offer expert, curated content from known, trusted brands, in compellingly designed packages. And those packages are constantly changing to offer novelty and reflect consumers’ latest interests and passions.
We believe that it’s time to think differently about magazines and books. They’re far more than just words on a page; they’re content that entertains, informs, educates and inspires the same customers that are expecting more than ever from retailers.
Further, with a new, more efficient, supply chain in place, we’re better positioned than ever to put the publishing industry’s commitment to retail into action.
A challenge was issued at last year’s MBR Conference. That challenge was “to create a presentation that speaks to the strength and relevance of the print category — both books and magazines — that can be shared with retailers to tell our story in a powerful and consistent way,” sums up Erin Reilly, director, distributor national accounts at Penguin Random House and a member of the MBR working committee that took on that challenge.
Thanks to that committee’s work, we’re now offering that presentation to members and all in the retail channel who are committed to conveying our category’s value and collaborating with retailers and other channel partners on new and creative opportunities to drive sales and enhance the shopping experience.
Called “What If We Leveraged Everything Magazines and Books Have to Offer,” this presentation — downloadable as a PDF from our website, along with a framing document — is designed to be used by channel partners to set the stage for productive conversations with retailers (not as a leave-behind).
The Thinking Behind ‘What If’
Here are some thoughts on the value of our category, and the presentation, from committee members who helped shape it:
Tom Pirozzi, senior vice president, marketing and publisher services at Meredith Corp.’s Time Inc. Retail: “Though challenged by a number of factors, print media remain viable, with retail consumer demand relatively strong. And why wouldn’t they be? Our content is rich and contemporary, and continues to inspire the interests and imaginations of our audiences — who are also retailers’ customers. If we can collaborate to leverage a retailer’s intimate knowledge of their customers and our publishers’ abilities to create and deliver highly engaging, valued content, I’m confident that we can drive consumption.”
Tim Humanik, senior vice president, Comag Marketing Group: “The presentation is important because it moves the conversation beyond the printed page. It describes the opportunity for retailers to collaborate with magazines and books to provide customer-centric solutions in this new era of shopping.”
Jay Annis, vice president, business manager, HOLA! And HOLA.com USA: “If there was ever a time that the magazine and book industries needed to collaborate not just with each other, but with our channel partners, it is now. ‘What if We Leveraged Everything’ invites retailers to look beyond traditional measurements and demonstrates the power and potential of the publishing community to influence consumers in ways most have never explored in the past."
Laying the Foundation: Category Performance, Appeal Stats
To provide a foundation for discussing new opportunities to leverage the category, the presentation first summarizes the latest data on publications’ strong profit numbers; recent sales and launch success stories; continuing appeal and high saturation among all age groups, including Millennials; the superior quality and engagement experience of print versus digital; and the data showing that magazine and book buyers are retailers’ best customers, with basket sizes far above the average for shoppers in general.
Leveraging Publications to Connect With Consumers, Enhance Shopper Experience
Today, retailers’ primary challenge is delivering the elevated shopping experience that customers now expect and demand.
Having underscored publications’ value in hard numbers, the presentation moves on to demonstrate that, just as important, books and magazines are uniquely positioned to connect with consumers and bring excitement to the customer experience.
It points out that, with a selection of continually changing, relevant content, magazines and books deliver an element of surprise to each new shopper visit.
Further, it emphasizes that, with consumers now routinely blending online and offline shopping, publishers are also uniquely positioned to help retailers leverage the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds. Publishers have invested in doing precisely that for their own brands, so they have the technology, talent and know-how to drive cross-channel, cross-category engagement and sales. And they’re eager to partner with retailers and bring these resources to the table for mutual benefit.
The areas of new, collaborative opportunities for publications and retailers include creating pre-shopping-trip engagement; meal solutions and planning; shared databases; click-and-collect cross-merchandising; social media promotion; special events; digital couponing; continuity programs; digital apps; and shopper information and resources.
The presentation outlines specific examples of “good, better and best” opportunities in each of these areas.
For example, in the area of tapping online and offline channel synergies, the three tiers outlined are:
Good: List books and magazines on retailer websites. Offer digital coupons and loyalty card offers (including suggestions based on purchases in categories relating to the publication’s theme). Offer book club programs.
Better: Collaborate to drive social media engagement. Offer pre-orders of bestselling writers, series and specials with store pick-up, to generate incremental trips and traffic. Offer continuity programs. Offer loyalty-card recommendations.
Best: Collaborate to offer retailer-specific or exclusive content. Cross-promote publisher app content to retailer pharmacies as partners in doctors’ office visits.
Today’s retail and media dynamics present virtually unlimited opportunities for our two businesses to create synergies that can drive engagement, sales and profits for both. All we need do is commit to taking a creative, collaborative approach to leveraging everything that books and magazines have to offer.
We hope that all channel partners will use this presentation as a tool to activate or accelerate that process with retailer partners.