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How Blackwell’s Are Reading Their Customers Better

Shortlisted for BookSeller of the Year 2021, Blackwell’s introduction of StoryStream to its digital marketing activities has been noticed and welcomed by readers as an involving way to keep the pages turning …

Getting Social

“We want to make sure we’re a visibly multi-channel business for our customers,” says Digital Director Kieron Smith. Recognising a change in audience behaviour back towards independent bookshops, they’d been looking at ways to maximise that opportunity while staying true to the personal service customers have experienced in their bookshops since 1879.

Soraya Fedyk, Head of Social Media, agrees. With a background in fashion, she’d seen how active social media strategies could simultaneously improve sales and brand-build. Blackwell’s was keen to do more in this space. “Our aim was to build up an active following on the more visual platforms and turn that into e-commerce opportunities,” she says.

The Real Thing

With StoryStream, they realised they could curate a dynamic feed of both social and User Generated Content (UGC) to create a highly engaging and rich visual customer experience. The approach of showcasing the best blend of earned and owned content gives customers an entirely new way to discover and buy the latest books.

Blackwell’s website drives strong traffic. It is very product-focused, and they have a significant and broad set of categories encompassing nearly 16 million products. For a medium-sized business, it’s a vast marketing task. So, StoryStream’s ability to bring products and people together was compelling.

“We now have the flexibility and content to show our key differentiators as an independent in the marketplace and continually deliver on our brand pillars,” Soraya comments.

“One of the most important elements of that is to show our physical presence with real images shared from our booksellers in the bookshops. It underlines our authenticity and brings the brand to life,” Kieron adds.

The live StoryStream content feed inspiring customers, to see click here

Being Involved

StoryStream is also driving customer engagement, enabling Blackwell’s readers to get more involved online and feel better valued. “They love how we notice them and share their views. In turn, they create more content and are developing greater loyalty to our brand,” Soraya says.

Content is pulled in on a daily basis from social media using tags, mentions, and hashtags from Blackwell’s bookshops, customers, authors, and publisher partners. And they’ve also expanded their reach to an enthusiastic book-loving social media world. The #bookstagram community – of over 60 million followers – is proving a powerful library of UGC that Blackwell’s can now access and utilise.

All of this has created a virtuous circle. “Readers are doing this more for love than money. They’ve been very happy to have their content featured and appreciate that we acknowledge them. We’re building our community around what is happening in books. And that’s what’s important to us and our customers,” Soraya comments.

Growing Revenue

It’s also making e-commerce sense.

Blackwell’s has seen its customers not only browse more but buy more. Results are showing an impressive 14% uplift in average order value for those who engage with the curated content in Blackwell’s StoryStream.

“I’m confident those revenues will grow more over time as our UGC strategy evolves and develops,” says Soraya.

Speed And Essence

Keeping up with social media trends means turnaround has to be quick. “If you have to wait a day or two for something to get uploaded, you’ve lost momentum,” says Soraya. “With StoryStream, we’ve got really good control on the timings of the content to maximize sales,” she adds.

And they can trust StoryStream’s AI to filter for quality, manage rights and have UGC always ready to curate into their digital marketing. “The quality of content coming through can make it difficult to pick. We’re very spoilt for choice,” she says.

It’s working for their own social media channels too. Their Edinburgh shop can create something, and the marketing team can then choose and curate it into the StoryStream galleries two hours later. “That’s hard to do in a standard CMS,” says Kieron.

StoryStream on the Blackwell’s homepage, to view click here

Set Up For Service

Blackwell’s have appreciated the personal StoryStream service. “I couldn’t really find anyone as straightforward and willing to try something as quickly with us as StoryStream did,” says Kieron.

The bespoke structure of Blackwell’s website meant they needed a solution that was simple to install and integrate. “We own the process end-to-end, and our developers were invested in making it a success. StoryStream responded well to our precise requirements. It only took three weeks from start to finish,” impresses Kieron.

Soraya notes that she has used other suppliers and plug-ins but that StoryStream has literally hand-held them throughout the whole process. “The onboarding was really slick,” she says. And StoryStream continues to work closely with them, providing regular check-ins and insight that help to keep strategy and action on track.

Alongside the shoppable StoryStream carousel on the home page, they’ve now introduced a StoryStream gallery grid featuring curated UGC content on a ‘Blackwell’s Live’ page. “I like the interactive feel – it adds a higher level of visibility for what we’re promoting. And it makes it look more creative as opposed to just pushing on the product,” she adds.

The next steps are to use StoryStream in their email marketing and capture video content.

Added Benefit

It’s also proving a success in driving their commercial appeal with publishers and authors. When pitching for deals, they can now offer greater visibility and targeted promotions. “Our UGC recently helped us to secure signed copies of a book by a prominent American author that we wanted,” says Kieron.

And publishers can bolster that visibility back through their channels. “It’s good for relationship-building,” Soraya adds.

Defining Success

Measurement of success for Blackwell’s is two-fold: growing sales, and growing brand.

Early results show that StoryStream has helped the team to achieve:

  • 15% increase in dwell time when a user engages with the Blackwell’s StoryStream
  • 33% of people who added an item to their basket engaged with the Blackwell’s StoryStream
  • 14% uplift in average order value when a user engages with the Blackwell’s StoryStream

“It is a balance between what you can measure and what you can’t. We deliberately wanted the site to look different to pure-plays by having rich, dynamic content and reflect what’s happening on social media. We want to be people-orientated and put booksellers front and centre if we can. That’s hard to put an ROI on,” says Kieron.

Contact Us

If you would like to find out how StoryStream can help you grow your eCommerce engagement contact us here or follow us on LinkedIn here