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Penguin Initiative a Good Read on Loyalty

suzie sisoler-imageOnly a person who loves books could appreciate a reward for reading that comes in the form of – you guessed it – more reading.

But Penguin Group, the publishing company, knows its customer. So it recently launched a loyalty initiative, called First to Read, designed to reward avid readers with pre-published galleys of books.

The approach is as straightforward as a passage from Hemingway. At least once a month First to Read offers digital galleys to program members, who can either enter a drawing to win the galley or use their points for guaranteed access. Members earn points by interacting on the First to Read site, such as by reviewing and sharing items.

Suzie Sisoler, Penguin’s senior director of consumer engagement and First to Read’s creator, took a break from books to talk about customer selectivity, the reader culture and the role data plays in saying “thanks.”

Question: What was the watershed event or trend that led to the creation of First to Read?

Answer: It wasn’t so much a watershed event as a consideration of the current climate of connecting with readers. Word of mouth is a very powerful factor in influencing a consumer’s decision to purchase and read a particular book. With First to Read I wanted to explore how we could foster this word-of-mouth outreach by providing a platform to encourage consumers to talk about our books to their network of friends and family through social media channels.

Additionally, we have an increasing amount of competition for a consumer’s attention. The loyalty aspect of the program came about because I was looking for ways that we could encourage readers to have a continued engagement with our books and authors. We thank our readers for participating on the site by offering them points, which they can then redeem for guaranteed access to a digital galley of a book we currently have on offer.

Q: The program is still pretty young, but how has the public responded?

A: I’m very pleased with both the growth in new members and continued engagement from existing members. We’re seeing that members aren’t just entering for a chance at each book on offer, but are selecting the one or two that they would like to read. This is what I was hoping would happen.

We’re also seeing a lot of positive conversation in the social media chatter we’ve been tracking – people are posting about the books they’ve learned about as part of the program and that they’ve had a chance to read early. We hope to see this convert to continued excitement about our books in advance of the on-sale date.

Q: What do the consumer results indicate to Penguin?

A: We’ve had a great initial response and the trend has continued with each offer period, which currently is at least once a month.

This response shows that consumers who identify as ‘readers’ like learning more about books in advance of the on-sale date and appreciate the opportunity to have access to either an advanced reading copy or excerpt.

Q: You have described First to Read as an opportunity to say “thanks” to your customers. In what ways are the data helping to do that?

A: We’re looking at the information members have shared, such as their reading preferences, and what genres are the most requested. We’re then using this information as one of the factors in determining which books to include in the program in future months. Our hope is that First to Read will be a program all readers will be interested in being a part of and we want to make sure we’re doing all we can to facilitate this.

Q: What do you see as the next big trend in loyalty communications?

A: I think better utilizing data to deliver a more customized experience for consumers participating in loyalty programs. So for instance, there won’t necessarily be a one-size-fits-all benefit to interacting with a program, but instead programs will offer benefits and incentives that are tailored to the members’ interests ­– both expressed and inferred by their actions.

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