Mills & Boon, the UK’s most successful publisher of romantic fiction, is continuing to shape its UK business for a digital future with the launch of an innovative, direct-to-consumer web platform and an eReading app for iPhone and iPad. The platform and the app will improve the way readers discover Mills & Boon’s 15,000 strong catalogue as well as make it easier to shop new releases and pre-order upcoming titles across the web in 2014 and beyond.
Built on nopCommerce, the Mills & Boon platform will pull in social feeds, and combine them with blogs, author pages, video and contributions and genre based entertainment to deliver a vibrant and constantly evolving Mills & Boon destination online. Plus, Mills & Boon is launching Socialise, a new community on the site that will connect fans with authors, with each other and bring them closer to the books themselves.
At the forefront of this innovation is the integration of unique “BookLamp” technology. Similar to music tool Pandora, BookLamp matches fiction fans to new work from Mills & Boon by analysing each eBook’s digital DNA. As one of the first publishers to convert to eBooks, Mills & Boon’s complete UK catalogue is now in digital format enabling BookLamp to search and recommend titles with a close ‘DNA’ to the eBooks being viewed. Unlike common ecommerce recommendation engines which are based on sales, Mills & Boon’s BookLamp works to identify books with a similar story pace and theme. This helps established readers to discover books they might not have seen before and offers a window into the themes of a story, series or author for new readers; speeding up the selection process and encouraging readers to try something new.
The launch of the new website coincides with the launch of the Mills & Boon branded Bluefire reader app. The app acts as a library – holding a user’s eBooks so they can read them on their smartphone and tablet and sync with their Mills & Boon account The app, which is designed for iOS7, has social sharing features and includes a selection of free eBooks. The Android version is due to launch in March.
The publisher has incorporated suggestions from Mills & Boon fans during the digital development process. With the new online and mobile compatible platform, there will be eReader help videos, book of the day and month, Top 10s, themed collections and customer reviews throughout the site. Plus, the reader will be invited to give feedback on every page with the ever-popular floating feedback tab.
Tim Cooper, Managing Director at Harlequin UK who has been responsible for the new brand platform says: “Mills & Boon is synonymous with passion. We have many millions of customers worldwide who are looking to explore the genres, stories and series, to engage with other fans and to find out more about their favourite authors. With the new platform and impressive mobile app, we will be able to digitally tap into their passion and offer them a great online experience whilst driving more engagement with new readers through the platform.”
There are two agencies behind the website – Pixel Group, who recently were behind Jamie Oliver’s new online experience, were selected for user experience and design, and Big Picture Interactive for development, build and retainer.
Alex Clifford, Account Director for Bpi agency, said: “This has been an exciting project and the result is a beautiful visual and technical environment that will enable Mills and Boon to provide its readers with a compelling visual experience that promotes the discovery of new books and themes to suit each reader’s preference. The nopCommerce platform has been developed to be fully integrated with the internal business systems whilst also providing the flexibility to react to trends as required.”
Nish Trivedi, director at Pixel Group, said: "Shifting brand perceptions and connecting with the audience was a key aspect of the experience strategy from the start. We wanted to create a destination where the audience participates in storytelling, engages with authors and shares their experiences. The experience was designed to embrace the key focus of discover, read, shop and share. The ultimate goal was to increase brand and content engagement with an omnipresent shopping experience."
New websites for other Harlequin imprints Mira, Mira Ink and Carina will follow in April.
The world of Mills & Boon can be found at www.millsandboon.co.uk and the app at: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/mills-boon/id813791429?ls=1&mt=8