Bookstores are evolving every day with their use of email. I thought it might be interesting to discuss what the Flying Pig has done with email in the last year to reach out to customers.
The beauty of email is it’s green, and that’s really important to customers these days, especially Vermont customers. Email uses no paper. It’s vital and often is interactive, which makes it more fun than a piece of paper received in the mail. And more importantly, it’s an inexpensive way to get your message out to your customers.
We have an email newsletter that we send out monthly. This tends to be an event-driven email, a monthly missive that highlights our upcoming author visits. I can claim no credit for this, as Elizabeth does all our graphics. One thing she does that I think is sheer genius, is every link on the email blast brings people back to our website for book purchases or further information. This closed link works to keep the Flying Pig foremost in our customer’s minds.
There are several email newsletter providers, but if a store is an ABA member, they can get Constant Contact at a reduced rate. The beauty of this program is it allows you to track who opens your email, what links they click through, and more. What’s important with all of the available programs is to see what’s working and what’s not. Are folks clicking on book covers to get more information? Do they want to learn more about the authors? Again, if you can keep a closed circle to your website, then customers are getting their info from you and not clicking off to Amazon to learn more.
Emails have become the preferred method of special order notification for a large group of customers. We are still calling the majority of customers, partly because we haven’t totally figured out the smoothest, most time-efficient way to do mass email notifications for each shipment that contains special orders and partly, because some folks are just don’t want to give out their email address.
Some people absolutely prefer emails because they have a smartphone, so they get notified whenever they turn their phone on. The real beauty of email notification is there are no phone messages to get lost, not delivered or just plain not written down. How many times have you left a message with a young child and known that the customer is not going to get that message? Emailing ensures the customer will get the message every time.
Collecting customer emails should be very easy. There are many ways to harvest emails. The first is quite simply a sign-up sheet at the register. Then you could ask the customer for their email address when you’re ringing them up and, depending on your point of sale system, you can add it directly. Lastly, if you have Constant Contact (I’m sure other email newsletter providers have similar functions) you can set up a widget on your desktop that allows you to add emails seamlessly right to the email program.
While emailing customers might be easy, often a phone call allows you to speak directly to the customer, and sometimes this can result in a book added to the order or just a fun conversation. Even when you’re really busy, never underestimate the value of a real person-to-person conversation.
Lastly, the question of email etiquette looms large in the business world. One thing I’ve often wondered is if someone has asked to be removed from your email list, do you send them an email telling them you’ve removed them, or do you just let it be?