How One Bookseller Keeps Its Email Subscribers Turning the Page

Cathy Traugot

Cathy Traugot

My inbox is consistently littered with 2-for-1 deals and 50% off promotions that I delete without even opening. And then there are the emails I open – and immediately delete. This got me thinking about what it takes these days to make me open and read an email, both personally and professionally.

As it turns out, there is one email I open and read every single day. It’s from a company called BookBub. I like to read, and BookBub works with publishers and authors to advertise heavily discounted digital books by sending personalized emails daily to its subscriber base. The personalization is based on a preference form I filled out when I first subscribed. While I read the email every day, I buy a book about once a month. I’ve been introduced (and re-introduced) to authors through BookBub and gone on to purchase their new releases at full price. According to BookBub’s website, 70% of authors report that sales of their other books increase after running a featured deal.

BookBub is kind of niche, and the average order value is super low. But their messaging works in a secondary way to draw attention to authors and genres with great success. So how can other commerce marketers take a page from their playbook? Let’s take a look.

Use Personalization

I’m still surprised at how few merchants care what I’m interested in when I sign up to receive their emails. BookBub knows I like literary fiction, historic fiction and historic non-fiction. And the selection of book offers I receive reflects those categories closely. It’s also easy to reset my preferences and even select books that I’d like to hear about if BookBub gets a deal on them. Although BookBub doesn’t mention this in their pitch to authors and publishers, I’m certain they’re personalizing my emails based on what I buy. Either that, or its just some weird coincidence that the World War II-themed stories I so enjoy show up quite regularly in my daily deals email.

Highlight Reviews

For each book, the site includes a 30- to 45-word description, which often mentions a published review or the reviews on reader sites such as Goodreads. I’m very review-driven regarding virtually everything I buy. I’ll try new books, clothes, kitchen gadgets and shoes based on a review. These personal accounts are especially important when buying items online that you can’t touch, flip open or try on. I look for reviews on how things fit someone with my build or descriptions of the way the fabric moves, and I use the Goodreads function to compare the books I liked to the ones of another reviewer. Bronto partners TurnTo, Feefo and Yotpo can help you pull in review information to use in your emails.

Make It Easy to Buy

Once you’ve signed up, BookBub offers one-touch purchasing options through Amazon, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google and Kobo. They remove almost all possible roadblocks to buying that next book. I know what you are thinking. “Those are big platforms that smaller commerce merchants can’t compete with.” Yes, but I discovered Kobo (a popular Canadian ebook brand) through BookBub, and there’s no reason a smaller merchant can’t invest in the necessary responsive design to make it easy for customers to buy products directly from the email.

Other Ways to Engage the Subscriber

In addition to these great strategies from BookBub, there are many other retailers engaging email subscribers with interesting ideas. Spoonflower holds awesome design contests and embeds how-to videos in their emails, such as this “Ultimate Sewing Guide for Beginners.” The colorful designs and patterns that you can buy on wallpaper, fabric and gift wrap make me want to learn to decorate, sew and give up my discount store gift bags.

Cosmetics company, and Bronto customer, Trish McEvoy also includes how-to videos in some of its messages. While one-step buying is critical, you may also need to help shoppers see just how they’d use your product before they’ll pull the trigger.

Finally, let’s look at an email from Uncommon Goods. You can buy the types of products they sell just about anywhere, so why buy from them? Because they take the time to tell you the story of the craftspeople behind the products.

Uncommon Goods emailShinola, seller of luxury watches and journals, is another brand who uses storytelling to connect customers to their company and evoke confidence in their products.

It’s probably not a coincidence that I’ve ended on a storytelling note. After all, I’ve always loved a good story.


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