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FMA Day Brings Digital Into Focus

Success stories in E-commerce, digital assistance with fulfillment vendors.

The 2011 Fulfillment Management Association [FMA] Day, hosted at the Princeton Club in New York City, zeroed in on the challenges publishers are currently undergoing, namely the hurdle of profiting in the digital space.
The day-long seminar opened up with an hour long session on how fulfillment vendors can assist publishers in increasing revenue. 
Steve Strickman, founder and president of SES and Company, introduced panelist Karen McEnroe, senior director of customer management for Hearst Magazines and Jim Patterson, senior director of operations for Bonnier Corporation, among others. He asked what strategies their companies are employing to make more money.
“One of the first things that I would recommend is that you get a list of services that your vendor offers,” McEnroe told the audience. “You’d be surprised—I discovered that there were some services that CDS offers that I wasn’t aware of—know what your fulfillment house has to offer.” She said that once an individual does that a company could offer cross-sells, gift renewals and request payment if the customer owes money.
“We also perform a lot of online generating opportunities,” said McEnroe, who was inducted into the Fulfillment Hall of Fame during the FMA Day luncheon. “There’s lots of opportunities in your customer care system where in addition to satisfying the client’s need to perform some kind of activity—change of address or email address—you can offer online upsells and cross-sells, even on cancellations. Someone might be cancelling one magazine but maybe they’d like a different magazine.”
Strickman inquired as to whether a fulfillment vendor should provide Web related services and tools or is it more effective for these third party vendors.
“You have to partner with your primary vendor,” said Patterson. “You also have to recognize other vendors, many times on a cost basis. They are much cheaper for some things. I think it’s not realistic to expect our primary subscription vendors to be the expert at all of this. You’ve got to pick and chose and you have to make sure that everyone is willing to open up their system—that’s a real key thing. It’s an openness on the primary vendor’s part.”
Publishing and E-Commerce
One session during the event that focused on digital strategies for publishers was “E-Commerce: What Clicks!”
Moderator Patrick Hainault, vice president of marketing for Inc. Magazine and Inc.com, asked panelists Lee Huang, product director for digital newsstand and emerging content at Barnes and Noble, and Adam Piotrowski, senior manager of SEO and social media for Magazines.com, what e-commerce opportunities or strategies are currently available.
“For me, it’s not so much as offline versus online,” said Huang. “We really want to be fully integrated, whether it’s on the marketing side, the production side or the technology side. We need to really look at things holistically—we have titles to sell, brands to sell and there’s a print component, a digital component and a Web component. For Barnes and Noble, currently we work with our publishers as partners to drive their entire business forward so we’ve got a number of digital editions online and we recently launched with Time, Inc. a joint subscription where you get both print and digital. If you’re a print subscriber to People you’ll get the digital edition at discounted price on the NOOK.”
Looking at analytics to identify bundles that might not be immediately obvious is another strategy Huang recommends to boost sales digitally. 
Hainault asked how to get a customer to stay loyal with a company once they have already purchased or signed on for products.
“I think the big thing for us is customer service,” said Piotrowski. “At the heart of it it’s making it very easy for them to get in touch with us, any way they need to. We find that we get a lot of people calling us that aren’t even our customers but they find our number easily online. With the not so personal nature of the Web, getting to be able to connect with an actual person when you need to is a big plus.”
Being active and making sure your customers can interact with your brand right away leads to a strategy where “9 times out of 10 whenever we have an issue it’s quickly resolved,” said Piotrowski. “It’s worthwhile.”
Hainault wondered what the role of social media is in e-commerce.
“It’s about cultivating relationships,” said Piotrowski. “All the work we’re doing there is helping us to serve other people.”
Huang said when he has worked with b-to-b publishers he noticed that they were focusing on their traditional market, paying little attention to recent college graduates that might be interested in their publications.
“The entire generation was lost for a lot of b-to-b magazines,” he said. “If you’re not in social you’ll be losing those people.”

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