IT is said that books are portals to new worlds where readers can go on new adventures, just by turning a page.
This rings true, especially for the team behind Kedai Bookcafe, who found their renaissance in the past year after joining TikTok Shop.
Kedai Bookcafe was established as a fully online-operated store to sell and market printed books. Currently, the store boasts a repertoire of 400 to 500 publishers that provide a wide variety of books for its customers.
At a time when entertainment and knowledge can easily be attained online with a few clicks, Kedai Bookcafe faced a conundrum, as nobody was buying physical copies of books anymore.
The team witnessed a downward trend in consumer demand in the middle of the year as sales were declining, and the appearance of customers in walk-in stores were few and far between.
This was when they decided to give TikTok Shop a go in October 2022, seeing as the platform had just entered the Malaysian market the same year.
The team did not place high hopes on this new venture, as they wanted to explore different ways of marketing their products. However, this decision proved to be a turning point in their business, as sales began to gradually improve.
Kedai Bookcafe head of sales and marketing Shahrul Ismail describes TikTok Shop as "a ray of hope" for the book industry.
“Getting started on TikTok Shop was relatively easy, thanks to the guidelines provided by the TikTok Academy. The platform is not significantly different from other marketplaces, and its user-friendly interface made the setup straightforward,” says Shahrul.
“When it comes to the business of books, we don't know if people still choose to read physical books. On TikTok Shop, we got to reach out to new customers, who shared with us that they were not even interested in reading.
“Through our content, we managed to introduce a culture of reading and they began to take interest in doing so. To them, it was a source of entertainment and education, while for us it was about reaching new audiences.”
According to Shahrul, they had to take a slightly different approach than other goods that did well in live sessions. They created their own video content, as well as leveraged the TikTok Shop Affiliate Programme to market their goods.
"We work with affiliate creators who do their own live selling sessions and videos. These people are passionate about books, and their audiences, in return, can resonate with their sharing on TikTok.
“This is how we managed to sell over 100,000 copies of a single book in the year since we joined TikTok Shop, which is something of an impossible feat if we were to only rely on traditional sales," Shahrul adds.
Currently, Kedai Bookcafe sees an average of 15,000 to 25,000 copies sold each month, which contributes between 60% to 70% of its revenue, solely from TikTok Shop.
In the past year, they were able to pay out a total of RM1mil to their affiliate agents, most of whom comprise housewives or students.
For Kedai Bookcafe, TikTok Shop has been an agent of change for the industry, as it allowed them to reach out to more audiences, as well as benefit the community.
Shahrul opines that TikTok Shop has been instrumental in helping small businesses reach a broader audience, expanding their reach beyond what other platforms offer.
“Even though we have physical stores for our books, we know that we cannot rely on just one avenue to sell.
“If we get any more than three or five walk-ins, it's considered a good day, but online we can create awareness through our videos, and get more people interested in the knowledge that they can gain through reading.
“We currently have a team of 28 and work with 40,000 affiliate creators, and to be able to give them a source of income is something we are humbled by, yet proud of as well,” Shahrul says.
At the recent TikTok Shop Summit 2023, Kedai Bookcafe earned the title of Top Rising Star in the lifestyle category. Achieving RM1mil in sales in a month was a notable feat in the book industry, demonstrating the platform's potential.
“As a creator, Kedai Bookcafe hopes that we can maintain the affiliate program, which can help us generate broader reach as we're committed to creating valuable educational content,” Shahrul says.
“As sellers, we'll continue providing top-notch service and anticipating more Mega Sales Events as TikTok Shop has significantly boosted our sales this past year and we want to continue enlightening our communities as we continue on the platform.”