Book Marketing Strategies for the Holiday Season

With December upon us and consumers beginning to enter last-minute-shopping panic mode, it’s a perfect time to ramp up your holiday campaign. This requires smart copy and good design of course, but most of all, it means adopting the psychology of a person who is:

  • running out of time;
  • requiring perfect presents for particular people;
  • trying really hard to not blow the budget;
  • accustomed to the competitive mojo of websites named after big rivers.

We are all that person, so it’s easy to do!

Reviews provide social proof

British Columbia-based Orca Book Publishers has a very effective homepage carousel this holiday season. As you can see, the strategy is to present a handful of books in the context of their great reviews. Importantly, no more than three words are pulled from longer reviews to quickly make the case that the book is worth checking out. The reviews serve as all-important social proof that the featured books are good choices and at the same time their brevity respects how quickly visitors need to make choices during the holiday season.

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Figure 1: Orca books paired with positive reviews.

Social proof is always powerful in an online marketplace bursting with competing offers, and even more so when people are stressed about present-buying on a tight timeline. It’s also handy on Christmas Day, because gift-giving is a conversation. When someone unwraps a book they’ve been given, it’s not usually in a cone of silence. Often, the person who gives the book then explains why they chose it (e.g., it’s in the Globe 100 Best Books, it got a killer review in the New York Times, etc.) The giver essentially trumpets the book’s awesomeness – with proof! – in order to make the receiver excited to receive it and mark it as a good and thoughtful present.

So reviews are important!

Free shipping can make all the difference

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Figure 2: Orca Book Publishers offer a big sale and free shipping (with conditions) during their Cyber Week.

Above, we see how another slide in the Orca holiday carousel broadcasts the savings to be had if visitors buy right now: 50% off all week, free shipping on orders over $150, and no discount code required (preventing that “it’s too much work/takes too much time” obstacle that can easily dissuade people from responding to a prompt).

Free shipping is a huge incentive. A recent US retail study found that 9 in 10 online shoppers said free shipping was the No. 1 incentive when asked what would make them shop online more often. While offering free shipping may not always be possible, in the holiday season, announcing a week or a day when consumers will receive it makes a lot of sense, even if it comes with conditions (e.g., purchases of more than $50, $100, or $150). The free-shipping offer should be timed so the book (or books) arrive before the 25th – and this should be guaranteed.

Newsletter and social media prompts to push things along

Consider increasing the frequency of your subscriber newsletter in December (and possibly January, too, when some people prefer to wait for sales). Your subscriber base is the most likely to visit your e-commerce enabled website, so their engagement really matters during the holiday push for sales. (See our recent post about how to build up a subscriber base.)

Your subscribers are also likely to follow you on social media, so a special holiday-themed social media element of your overall campaign – possibly a contest promoted in your newsletter – could be a good idea as well. The goal of this campaign might be aimed at increasing your subscriber base – looking forward into the next year – as well as getting people to your website over the holidays (see below re: Instagram).

Instagram for extending reach and evoking good (yummy) things

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On Instagram, #Bookstagram – the hashtag uniting the huge community of book-loving Instagram members – is increasingly popular, and investing in it can be a good way to grow your fan base. This year was a big year for “tag three friends in the comments” contests. If you’re on Instagram, consider running a contest (e.g., to win any book off your site in December) during the holidays with a “tag friends” component. The fun thing about doing it now is all the holiday imagery you can use to punch up the presentation of your books.

Instagram also allows you to position your books in a complementary, non-book context. In the following Penguin Random House image, you’ll see how much the nacho chips and cupcakes increase the energy around the book, making readers think of other things they love as well as books.

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Figure 3: Penguin Random House knows that one way to a sports fan’s heart is through their stomach.

This associative strategy can enhance the impact of any book bundling strategy you might be running (e.g., books for sports nuts, books for moody teenagers, books to scare the pants off anyone). All of these examples immediately conjure up images, and all can easily be staged on Instagram.

Good luck to all in this busiest of seasons, and please see yet more ideas for holiday campaigns RIGHT HERE!