Blurb

The story behind a self-publishing company’s growth

Based in San Francisco, Blurb is a book-making platform and creative community that enables individuals to create, publish, and share or sell high-quality photo books, trade books, magazines, and wall art. Blurb’s customer base is made up of two segments: consumers making a one-time book creation for personal reasons, and professional consumers (prosumers) making one or more books for resale.

Hardcover book with the words "Thailand" printed on the front in white font against a canary yellow background. The cover photo shows to people smiling at each other while peering out of two windows that have bright blue shutters.

49%

increase in bookings

350%

increase in non-brand ROAS

78%

increase in ROAS account-wide

Driving growth from new customers among heavy competition

Blurb typically enjoyed repeat purchase rates of 35–40% after customers had created and purchased their first book. Yet, heavy competition from large competitors for advertising keywords on Google and social sites had made it difficult and expensive to attract business via search. At the same time, Blurb’s prosumer segment was under pressure due to the pandemic’s negative impact on book creators. Blurb was relying on repeat business from existing customers, as opposed to growth from new customers.

With the goal of driving down customer acquisition costs while simultaneously maximizing revenue from the prosumer segment, Blurb’s three-person marketing team turned to DEPT® to form a strategy for sustainable, long-term growth.

Book opened up to a page with a person running with their arms outstretched .

Reducing customer acquisition costs while capitalizing on non-brand search

DEPT® started by identifying three areas of opportunities for reducing customer acquisition costs while boosting new customer growth.

1. Applying best practices to the initial campaign setup

We needed to identify the best practices that would have the greatest impact on pinpointing both the most valuable prosumers and those who would most likely convert to a paid customer in the near term.

To accomplish this, the team worked with Blurb to ensure that all exclusions were set up in a timely manner and avoid spending on acquisition campaigns targeting existing customers. Next, we helped Blurb segment customer lists by lifetime value and people who had registered with Blurb but had not yet purchased. Messaging campaigns were developed for each of these audiences.

2. Revamping tracking methods

Within two months of the initial review, DEPT® had completely overhauled Blurb’s tracking capabilities. The transformation started in July 2020, when we moved Blurb from cookie-based tracking to data layer tracking for customer registrations. Blurb’s previous reliance on cookies had led them to over-record registrations due to the occurrence of several pixel fires in the process.

3. Developing non-brand search campaigns

Blurb’s success hinged on getting new customers to register because that is the entry point to creating a new book. With this in mind, we were determined to dramatically improve Blurb’s non-brand search results. We began improving non-brand performance via Smart Bidding and launching DSA on non-brand searches to yield stronger CPCs, CTRs, and incremental purchases from non-brand-aware users. Since the dynamic ads were targeting search terms that we were not already bidding on for Blurb, we were easily able to verify the non-brand uplift.

Holiday season push with high ROAS:

Around the 2020 holiday season, DEPT® executed a strategy that filled the pipeline early by pushing hard on acquisition efforts in October and then capitalizing on efficiencies in November by allocating more budget toward retargeting and retention. Finally, we focused the majority of the December budget ahead of the holiday shipping cutoff, shifting toward a low-cost brand defense strategy for the remainder of the month. The result was a holiday season ROAS of 6.8 — well above the target of 4.0.

Exceeding expectations and still going strong

DEPT® and Blurb blew away expectations for both profitability and new customer growth in 2020. Despite lowering their media spend by 17%, ROAS and bookings improved in the final three months of the 2020 calendar year over the prior year.

Blurb quickly gained an appreciation for DEPT®’s ability to adjust rapidly to both corporate strategies and evolving market conditions. “That’s why DEPT® now gets the overwhelming majority of the budget we have available for media,” said Julio Loredo, Blurb’s director of paid media and web.

In the second half of 2021, Blurb presented a new challenge to DEPT® – to grow customers even more rapidly than they did in 2020. Two initiatives that we started are already yielding impressive results:

Transitioned from single-keyword ad groups (SKAGs) to multi-keyword ad groups (MKAGs) to improve relevancy and work more efficiently with bidding strategy in September 2021. Since launch, revenue is up 77% and ROAS is up 26%.

In late 2020, we initiated ad diversification on social platforms. Incorporating video and animation has generated 88% higher ROAS than static assets.

Overall, we spent 17% less in Q2 2020 than we did in 2019, but thanks to DEPT®’s strategic budget allocation and campaign restructuring, we improved ROAS by 78% and bookings by 49%

JULIO LOREDO

DIRECTOR, PAID MEDIA AND WEB, BLURB

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