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ECPA Wire: Industry Issues

PubU session will explore opportunities for growth through customization in the Christian market

Monday, September 4, 2017  
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by Kristen McLean, Executive Director of Business Development, NPD Book; and PubU brain trust co-lead for the Data, Delivery & Workflow track

The U.S. Book business is a mature industry which typically measures successful growth in
single digits, and where advantage in one category or publisher often comes at the expense of another.  This has been especially true in Christian publishing in recent years as we cope with

 

the additional challenges of store closures and evolving questions of faith and engagement.


However, there is one area of the business which can offer good margins, additive revenue, and products and services that are on-point with some of the larger trends in what consumers want—customized products.


At the upcoming ECPA PubU in Nashville, we’re going to look at some case studies of customization during our "Customization—Exciting New Horizons for Growth" session, and discuss the ways in which these strategies can be applied to different areas of the business to deliver new revenues and product opportunities.  

 

Here are a few thoughts about why you should be thinking about this for your own business:


THE IDEA OF CUSTOMIZATION IS NOT NEW IN CHRISTIAN PUBLISHING, BUT THE FORMS IT CAN TAKE ARE.

 

Customization is not a new idea in the Christian Market—personalized Bible programs have been an integral part of many publisher and retailer programs right back to the inherited family Bible of yore.

 

But new digital platforms, POD technologies, and shifting consumer appetites have created new ways to leverage “mass” customization for emerging business models. These include high-quality personalized children’s book programs; POD delivery of audio and video ministry programs; short-run customized Bible study or Sunday school materials; and customized gift merchandise to name a few successful examples. The key is figuring out whether you have any assets in your current catalog that would be a good fit for this approach, or whether there is a clear partner platform to work with to achieve a scalable customization business.

 

What is potentially great about this kind of program is the fact that this revenue can be largely additive--you can have a basic edition of a book and a personalized addition at a higher price point. One does not necessarily cannibalize the other, and revenue from custom programs on existing assets build the bottom line.

 

CAPITALIZE ON CONSUMER TRENDS OF INDIVIDUALISM AND UNIQUENESS—TOWARD "EXPERIENCES" AND AWAY FROM "THINGS."


One of the “Mega-Trends” we’ve been tracking in the broader consumer market is a decline in spending on “stuff” and an increase on spending for “experiences”. Experiences can include travel and dining, but they can also be spending on merchandise which delivers unique experience in the form of a gift or a family moment.

 

Consumers—particularly younger consumers—love personalizing almost every aspect of their experience, and data shows that retailers who can capitalize on delivering a unique in-store “experiences”  with strategies like classes (REI/Lululemon), knowing individualized preferences (Sephora/Starbucks), or customizable merchandise (Build-a-Bear) are setting themselves apart. What is the analog in the Christian space? Who are our partners? What are our products?

 

THE CHRISTIAN MARKET IS UNIQUELY POSITIONED BECAUSE OF THE PERSONAL NATURE OF FAITH.


Ultimately, the Christian market is better poised than many to develop customization programs—after all our business is the business of expressing and exploring Faith, and nothing is more personal or customized than that.


The question we need to ask ourselves is how we can create products and services for our end-users which help them express their Faith in a meaningful, highly personalized way that is also repeatable and scalable from a business point of view.


Come join us in Nashville for PubU, as we study companies and products which are doing this successfully now, and which help point us in the right direction for growth for tomorrow.  

 

More on the Data, Delivery & Workflow track at PubU  >>

 

Kristen McLean is the Executive Director of Business Development at the NPD Books Group, and she is the resident specialist on the Christian Publishing Market. Along with fellow Brain Trust member Joshua Tallent of Firebrand, she is leading the Data, Delivery and Workflow track atECPA PubU, November 7-8 at Lipscomb University in Nashville. She will lead two sessions including one based on this topic called, "Customization—Exciting New Horizons for Growth."


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