This week, B&T has been on the ground at the Australian Online Retailer conference at the ICC, uncovering the latest developments and insights that are paving the way for the future of the thriving ecommerce landscape.
Yesterday, we had the pleasure of sitting down with one of their esteemed keynoters, Adam Freedman, brand communications consultant at Booktopia, to get a download on how the beloved brand has been riding the post-lockdown wave and tapping into the latent #BookTok bibliomania to connect with new audiences and develop their brand priorities.
Hear what Freedman has learned in this in-depth interview.
Thank you for joining us, Adam. As an online book retailer, could you share your experience in utilising contemporary platforms like TikTok’s #BookTok and Bookstagram to promote your brand?
With books, it’s one of the few categories where there is a community that genuinely engages with it, unlike categories like fitness or food, which might have some dedicated blogs. But with BookTok and Bookstagram, there’s this whole community coming together to passionately discuss everything they love, and we can leverage this fandom.
The uniqueness lies in the fact that we don’t have to push sales; instead, you’re inviting users into a space where they self-moderate and collaborate, discovering the beauty of books together. Our goal is to fuel this fire even more. How can we best serve them with exciting content and valuable recommendations that keep them enthralled?
During COVID, Booktopia responded by leveraging these communities, right?
COVID fueled a book boom as entertainment and learning options became limited. Individuals sought solace and connection through platforms like BookTok and Bookstagram, where online book clubs really came to the fore. It was previously reserved for celebrities like Oprah and Reese Witherspoon, now anyone could create a literary community.
Do you consider book clubs in the same vein as user-generated content?
Yes, BookTok and Bookstagram are one way to discover content, but the rise of book clubs has brought people together in all shapes and sizes – from just two to as many as 200 individuals.
And it’s not just an online thing anymore. While they might have started on the internet, people have taken these communities offline, like how shopping habits changed after the lockdown. Being part of a book club has become an aspect of popular culture.
In what actionable ways has Booktopia taken advantage of these changes in digital behaviour and interest?
Books play a crucial role in the social media home-buyer trend, and we can leverage this phenomenon in our content to connect with our target audience. Whether it’s through email marketing, onsite activities, or our social media engagement, we need to identify viral topics and use relevant hashtags to curate content that enhances discoverability for “BookTok-ers.” By creating an enjoyable avenue, we can lead people to “think books, think Booktopia,” as we say.
And from what you have seen, what have been the key factors of success that drive audiences to action?
You have to listen. Don’t approach people with a one-size-fits-all mindset, even on platforms like Bookstagram. You. might think it’s a small community, but there are diverse personas in different segments. The more genuinely immersed you become in understanding it, the more effective your strategy and execution will be. It’s essentially a form of influencer marketing.
What advice do you have for new or niche authors, similar I guess to emerging brands, who are looking to amplify their product across digital platforms like TikTok?
Really think about who you want your target audience to be. We take pride in backing debut Australian author because we want to champion local talent. When crafting short-form content, we encourage them to perfect their elevator pitch – a 10-second piece about the reasons to believe in their book without sounding too salesy. Also putting yourself in the audience’s shoes is as much as possible. Remember, you can sell without overtly selling.
I’m also curious about how despite the fact that most of this frenzy of activity is taking place as online media, people still gravitate to the hardcopy book. Why do you think that is?
Our highest volume comes from physical books, and I don’t see this trend changing anytime soon. They offer a unique multi-sensory experience from both psychological and content perspective, which is hard to replicate. On platforms like BookTok and Bookstagram, everyone seems to be creating content featuring physical books. For example, we see people making Booktopia haul videos on TikTok, and you see their love for the tactile feel and the excitement of receiving book deliveries.
However, the whole category has experienced growth due to COVID, so audiobooks and eBooks are also on the rise. They just provide a different way of engaging with literature, like how most people enjoy learning on the go. There’s a myriad of choice which ultimately depends on the reader’s preferences and the type of literature they are exploring.
Being online, you must have insights into emerging trends and audience interests. Which genres have seen higher indexing since the literary boom began?
BookTok has definitely fueled an increase in fantasy. Romance has really has a new lease of life again, things that you wouldn’t expect from books on books. Colleen Hoover and Taylor Jenkins, for example, are now celebrities in their own right. Manga is led by a niche but passionate market.
Fiction is obviously doing very well, and the beauty of social media is being able to bring bestsellers to life in different ways, with content creators helping to elevate it further; it’s an accessible route to build into subcategories. Nonfiction has also risen, particularly with influencers, who are putting out their own books.
Finally, in your keynote “What’s brand got to do with it” focused on omnichannel excellence, what is the one key takeaway you want your audience to leave with?
Always keep your customer in mind. Who are you doing this for? Make sure you’re establishing a genuine one-to-one connection alongside the one-to-many approach, even though it can be a challenging balance to strike. With a strong foundation to start with, you should be onto a winner.