I love comic books, but the comic book industry is often bad at adapting to emerging trends and technologies – especially when it comes to marketing.
For example, in the current era of hit superhero movies, I think we should be seeing ads for comic books everywhere. I think every Spider-Man: Far From Home movie ticket should come with a free Amazing Spider-Man digital comic. I think I should constantly be retargeted with online ads for Marvel Unlimited and comiXology Unlimited subscriptions based on my browser history. I think I should receive emails when new issues of series I’ve bought through comiXology are released, reminding me to pick them up. But as far as I know, none of these things are happening, because America’s biggest comics publishers don’t invest much in marketing.
So you can imagine how fantastic it’s been to see a brick-and-mortar comic book retailer level up the comic industry’s digital marketing game. Stu Colson, the owner of New Zealand’s Heroes for Sale, has brought comic book retail and marketing into the 21st century through a new online inventory management, point-of-sale, and (most importantly) marketing system called ComicHub. And it’s letting comic shop owners perform advanced digital marketing techniques that they should’ve had access to years ago.
Curated Recommendations, Availability, and Pull Lists – AKA Targeted Marketing
I don’t frequent physical comic book stores very often these days (I’m running out of room on my bookshelves and I move quite a lot), but I’m still tempted to sign up for a ComicHub customer account. That’s because ComicHub allows me, as a reader, to build a curated pull list of the titles I’d like to receive information about, and it also allows my local comic shop to automatically email me recommendations of other comics I might like.
I am, admittedly, an easy mark when it comes to comic books. I like to read nearly anything and everything, and I love receiving recommendations. While my Friendly Local Comic Shop Owner often recommends titles to me in person, they’re sometimes busy, distracted, or just don’t know about ALL of the hundreds of comic books that are being released each month. Allowing an automated inventory management and email system to retrieve and send out those sorts of recommendations (based on my previous purchase history), with branding personalized to MY local shop, seems like a huge win for store owners.
Additionally, comics publishers themselves are now taking advantage of ComicHub’s expanded digital reach. BOOM! Studios, one of the industry’s more innovative publishers, is promoting one of their highly-anticipated new series through the ComicHub app and email marketing system, in partnership with comics retailers. Those ads are designed to pull additional readers into local stores to purchase BOOM!’s new series.
To determine whether these ads succeeded, ComicHub will be able to track which of their users clicked the ads, what store(s) those users went to, and how many of them actually purchased the comic. That’s a lot of data (and additional marketing power) that comic publishers and retailers previously did not have access to.
And So Much Additional Comic Book Sales Data
Most recently, ComicHub announced that they’re partnering with NPD Bookscan to start reporting sell-through data for single issue and trade paperback comics. This is a big deal for comic book sales analytics because, previously, the industry’s been unable to track the exact number of copies of Batman or X-Men or whatever that are ending up in actual readers’ hands each month. We’ve known how many copies retailers bought from distributors, but not how many of those copies were then sold to customers.
ComicHub’s initial sell-through sample size will be small, but I expect their data set will grow exponentially over time (as retailers realize the benefits of an automated digital marketing system built atop a point-of-sale system). And ComicHub’s sell-through data will soon be compared with distributors’ sales data, allowing publishers and consumers to see what percentage of books sold to shops are actually finding their way to customers. It’s going to be super interesting to see each comic’s distributor-to-shop-to-reader “conversion rate,” and watch how the industry responds to this new set of data.
All of which is to say, as a digital marketer who is also a comics reader, ComicHub excites the heck out of me. It’s a potentially game-changing tool that’s opening up a ton of new sales avenues and efficiencies for a set of retailers that I need to survive the ongoing retail-pocalypse. And it’s doing so by letting those retailers take advantage of modern marketing tactics that I know will boost their bottom line.
If you want to learn more about ComicHub, I highly recommend listening to this episode of the Off-Panel podcast, in which host David Harper talks to Stu Colson about ComicHub’s creation and expansion. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to think about how good your favorite hobby is at marketing, and how they could better use digital marketing tools to reach you.