Last week, at the ABA’s Winter Institute, Above the Treeline announced its new service for independent bookstores, Edelweiss360. The product is focused on helping stores increase revenue primarily through targeted customer email marketing, direct online sales, and fostering digital customer communities.

Much of the discussion at Winter Institute amongst booksellers focused on how to increase store profitability and level the playing field with large online retailers. One barrier to success has been in applying the indies’ competitive advantages of personal service and knowledgeable handselling into the digital world with limited budgets and smaller team sizes.

That’s where Edelweiss360 comes in.

“Booksellers give better recommendations than algorithms and provide better service than large online retailers. They have the expertise but just lacked the technology needed to do this easily. Edelweiss360 makes it simple for booksellers to email personal recommendations, which not only brings customers into the store but also grows online sales. The system matches customers to titles by looking at past transactions, customer interests, and comparable titles – but the bookseller is ultimately the one in control,” says John Rubin, Founder & CEO of Above the Treeline.

While Edelweiss360 has just entered beta testing, early results from participating stores are very promising. “We’ve had all this customer data for years, and we’ve never been able to use it. With this tool, I created a good, customized email campaign in five to ten minutes,” says Chris Morrow, owner of Northshire Books, who is currently beta testing Edelweiss360. Northshire Books saw an increase of nearly $14,000 in revenue from sending four simple email campaigns over the holidays. These campaigns resulted in 124 direct conversions from titles recommended in emails and 498 “halo conversions,” or additional sales that came about because the customer purchased other books at the same time.

At Winter Institute, the announcement of Edelweiss360 was met with enthusiasm and excitement. There’s a lot of energy in the industry focused on making it easier for online shoppers to support the indies. This includes services such as Bookshop, which shares a portion of online proceeds with participating indies and serves as a replacement for the ABA’s IndieBound, and Bookstore Link, which helps online shoppers find a local store to purchase from. A new version of Shelf Awareness for Readers will also help indies send non-targeted store emails to generate pre-orders.

Edelweiss360 allows booksellers to personally connect with their customers in ways that are unique to the store – bringing the store’s brick-and-mortal experience to its loyal customers, wherever they may be. With the average person spending over 3 hours a day on their phone, this means allowing consumers to connect with their local store from anywhere digitally. In addition to driving traffic to the store, Edelweiss360 expands a store’s online ordering capabilities and provides a mobile-friendly, personally curated online store for each customer.

Moving beyond general monthly email newsletters to personalized, targeted email marketing is particularly important from a competitive standpoint because Amazon’s recommendation engine and email marketing generate upwards of an estimated 35% of its revenue, with emails converting even more than their onsite recommendations. Segmenting email lists in order to send the right content to the right customers results in 14% better open rates and 100% better click rates than non-segmented campaigns. Currently, most stores avoid segmentation completely because of technical limitations. With Edelweiss360, non-technical users can craft a beautiful, relevant email campaign and send to the right group of customers in just minutes.

How does it work? First, Edelweiss360 integrates a store’s customer transaction data, its inventory data (drawn from Edelweiss+Analytics), and publisher title listings, reviews, and other pertinent information available in Edelweiss+. Emails are then developed by the store using the Edelweiss360 “campaign builder,” which makes it easy to promote certain titles, collections, events, or Staff Picks to just the right customers (i.e. “New History Titles for You” or “If You Like Stephen King, You Might Like…”). To help stores prioritize which titles to promote, it also shows how many copies are in stock or on order. The “Learn More” or “Buy” buttons in the store-branded emails either link to the store’s website and its existing eCommerce or to a personally curated online store with one-click digital payment options. In the future, stores will be able to allow customers to track their loyalty program rewards, share reviews, create and share wishlists, and order café items for pick-up at the store.

And, while bookstores will always ‘own’ the customer and their experience, Above the Treeline is talking to publishers about how to facilitate mutually beneficial relationships with booksellers. Edelweiss360 creates a unique opportunity to allow publishers to efficiently work with independent bookstores to promote titles as an aggregated entity while keeping the ultimate customer experience in the hands of individual bookstores.

Edelweiss360 will be available to subscribers of the Summit tier of Edelweiss+Analytics mid-year 2020. Interested stores can learn more about Edelweiss360 and subscribe to the mailing list for updates here.