By Cliff Guren, Bluefire
First of all…
It’s 1999. Steve Jobs has re-assumed control of Apple and revived the company with the “Think Different” campaign, the iMac, and upcoming launch of OS X. His passion for crafting and controlling the end-to-end consumer experience is close to being fully realized. The one part he doesn’t control is the buying experience.
As Walter Issacson writes in his recent biography of Jobs, Steve recognized that “Industry sales were shifting from local computer specialty shops to megachains and big box stores…” Jobs told him, “Unless we could find ways to get our message to customers at the store, we were screwed.” Why? Because Jobs knew that the sale of Macs depended on the company’s ability to demonstrate their innovative features and justify their higher price tag. In other words, to escape commoditization, Apple had to make its brand attributes tangible — they had to show, not just tell.
Anyone who sells books in today’s highly consolidated retail environment faces a similar challenge — and can learn from Apple’s breakout strategy.
Your brand matters. Know who you are and what you stand for. Big box stores are driven by selection and price: it’s hard for anyone except other large retailers to compete on those two dimensions. What drives your business? Whatever it is — a particular passion, idea or identity — use it! The proliferation of mobile platforms provides an incredible range of opportunities for connecting with customers. Your brand—and your brand experience—can be just a tap away from a connected customer.
Focus on what you do best. A number of retailers and publishers have tried to create their own reading applications and abandoned the effort. Creating and maintaining applications is hard, which is why we promote a white-label model that our customers reap the benefits of our investment at a fraction of the cost required to create their own app. They get new features when we add them and ongoing support for operating system upgrades. Most importantly, working with Bluefire lets them to focus on the things they do best: curation, marketing and customer engagement.
Earn your customer’s loyalty every day. Apple’s stores are beautifully designed, well staffed, and easy to shop in. The checkout process is amazingly efficient and the return policies are generous. How does your store’s shopping experience compare? The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York is open 24 hours a day — and it’s always busy. There are big box electronics stores not far away. When they close at 9:00 PM they shoo away the few customers who remain in their otherwise empty store. The enthusiasm that people have for the Apple store experience speaks for itself.
Your Brand. Your App. Your Customers.
Bluefire Productions is focused on providing retailers and publishers with an affordable white-label mobile reading platform. We’re deeply engaged with a growing, international list of retailers and publishers who are successfully finding ways to compete.
Our branded apps for iOS and Android support integrated e-commerce, account access, the ability to read Adobe Content Server 4 (ACS) protected ePUB and PDF titles, single user ID sign-in (through Adobe Vendor ID), analytics, and more.
In the U.S. we’ve helped retailers such as Books-A-Million, Hastings Entertainment and Diesel launch branded apps. We’ve also helped the American Booksellers Association launch the IndieBound reader, giving independent booksellers a presence in the eBook market. And we’ve helped Kaplan Publishing’s test prep group launch their mobile reading app.
MediaCorp, Singapore’s leading media company, is another recent customer. The company is poised to become a leading eBook retailer following their success in television, radio, newspapers and magazines.
In Europe we’ve helped open new sales channels for Chapitre.com in France, Libri.de in Germany, and Elefant.ro in Romania. More releases are on the way from new customers in Germany, Denmark and the U.K.
I’ve worked for both Apple and Microsoft, along with a number of other key players in digital publishing. I believe that every company has its unique DNA—the one or two attributes that define a company’s worldview.
Apple is defined by its focus on the end-to-end consumer experience, Microsoft by its passion for creating enabling technologies. Thinking and acting differently isn’t about following, it’s about understanding your company’s DNA and figuring out how you can thrive without losing touch with what makes you unique. It’s a way of thinking and being that consumers are always looking for.
Cliff Guren, is Vice President, Business Development of Bluefire, the Seattle-based developer of customizable, full-featured e-reading applications for publishers and retailers to sell their content on iOS and Android devices. A veteran participant in the world of digital content development and publishing. Prior to joining Bluefire, Cliff held senior positions at Microsoft, Apple, and Skiff (a venture of Hearst Corporation), amongst others.
LONDON BOOK FAIR: Bluefire will be at the London Book Fair stand x800 and they are also hosting a casual meetup during the Fair, at The Prince of Teck, 161 Earl’s Court Road SW5 9RQ London on Tuesday, April 17 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. If someone wants to schedule a meeting with them they can contact Danielle@conceptpr.net.
DISCUSS: Should Publishers Control Their Own Digital Distribution?