According to new research, online book buying is one way we’re keeping ourselves entertained as we endure the remaining months of COVID – and there’s great potential for this behaviour to stretch past the pandemic.

Splurging online to beat the blues

A McKinsey & Company survey has found that more than half of Americans plan to “splurge or treat themselves” in 2021, and a Canadian study by Moneris found the same trend. “Anything that Canadians can do to try and find ways to keep entertained they are doing," says Malcolm Fowler, the company’s chief strategic partnership officer.

As a result of physical store closures – and increasingly, habit – we are finding our entertainment online more than ever before. E-commerce transactions are well up in Canada compared with a year ago. KPMG has found that 66% of Canadians increased their online shopping habits during COVID-19, and the proportion of Americans who have done so is about the same (62%).

The potential for bookstores and book publishers is huge, with the McKinsey research finding that of all retail categories, books are the products for which surveyed consumers most expect to either maintain or increase their online shopping “after COVID-19.”

Consumers expect more digital acceleration in categories such as books

Source: McKinsey & Company

However, as Peter Hughes, KPMG Canada's National Leader of Customer Practice, says,

“For the surge in online spending to stick, the shopping experience needs to be seamless from the moment a customer goes online or opens an app to the second the product or service is delivered or returned.”

Hughes’ comment underlines the higher level of sophistication that consumers now expect from e-commerce websites, an expectation we’ve keep front and centre at ReaderBound. One example is the single-page checkout we offer, which reduces friction for the customer, allowing them to proceed quickly to their goal of buying books.

Crowded marketplace demands smart online advertising

Having a great website is one thing; getting consumers to visit it is another. In an Ingram Content Group webinar this month that reviewed key learnings and trends for the book publishing industry during the pandemic, Peter McCarthy, Ingram’s Director of Consumer Insights, emphasised how important it is for publishers and books to be found by consumer searches and via social channels.

“We saw in 2020 about a 50% rise in book-related searches on Google and Amazon...which is a huge shift. When we look at publishers who are being agile, a lot of what they're doing is ensuring that their titles can be discovered by a search, and social.”

In that same webinar, McCarthy’s colleague Jess Johns added,

“Really understanding how to optimize your advertising dollars and invest those strategically to improve your profile and online channels is going to be critical going forward.”

Now’s the time to build loyalty

Growing numbers of North Americans are getting vaccinated and there will be a time when COVID morphs from a crisis to an endemic illness. When it does, people will begin moving around again more and visiting bricks-and-mortar stores. Penguin Random House US CEO Madeline McIntosh noted in the Ingram webinar that,

“The driving factor that we heard [behind the pandemic-driven increases in books] is that the reason sales grew is because [people] had more time...and not much else to do.”

With many book buyers still choosing to buy from their homes rather than from physical stores, now is the time to knock their socks off with your books and the service you deliver through your website.