Todd Humphrey, EVP Business Development at Kobo Inc, takes Bdaily behind the business.
What key challenges has your company recently faced?
When Kobo first began, there were already well-established competitors in the market. We knew that to compete, we would need to pay close attention to consumer behaviours and trends, make quick and smart decisions, and take risks to gain traction with the reading community. We were aggressive in those early days – and we needed to be. In just 27 months we’ve launched four devices, award-winning apps for most platforms, and now have 8 million readers around the world.
We know that we’ve only just begun our journey to bring eReading to the global stage, so Kobo continues its international expansion by introducing eReading to emerging markets—with the goal to be the market leader in specific territories.
To be competitive and stay ahead of the curve, the company is laser-focused on innovation, which has always been and remains a strong and integral part of our success. One of our main advantages has always been the speed at which we move and execute in comparison to our competitors, we’re agile, flexible and fast, which helps us bring new solutions to market quickly. For example, Kobo was the first eReading company to introduce social reading with Kobo Reading Life™ and Kobo Pulse™. With this platform, readers can take part in conversations about the book they are reading, as well as share thoughts about the book to their Facebook and Twitter communities.
What is your biggest achievement over the past 12 months?
Kobo’s biggest achievement over the past year has been the rate at which we have grown, surpassing more than 8-million registered users, and launching a line-up of award-winning eReading devices. In addition, Kobo was recently acquired by leading Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten. The acquisition has provided global strength to Kobo; boosting its resources, enabling the company to quickly expand internationally as well as strengthen its relationships with customers and key retail partners.
What is your biggest focus for the coming year?
Kobo’s focus is on further expanding to new international markets and deliver eReading on a global scale. Kobo is establishing itself as the industry leader in territories where eReading is not widely spread. In these markets, the company is taking the lead on educating a new base of customers who haven’t had a lot of exposure to the benefits of eReading. Kobo wants everyone to be reading, and as such, supports the most popular eBook formats to enable reading on virtually any device with one of Kobo’s free apps. Other highlighted benefits include carrying entire libraries on a compact eReading device, and increasing vocabulary with easy access to the integrated dictionary. The Kobo eReaders and free Kobo apps also support titles from local libraries as well as from other sources, so consumers can access the eReading experience they desire.
If you had to choose one top piece of advice for someone just starting out in business, or is currently operating within your industry sector, what would it be?
When starting off as a start-up, it’s about being confident, taking risks and doing things first to stay ahead of the competition. Kobo prides itself on being quick to launch products to market, so leading with speed has definitely become a core value directly affecting the company’s success. With so many companies vying for consumers’ attention, it’s really important to form solid partnerships that will yield compelling programs and initiatives, in turn positively affecting engagement and sales.
Can you share with us your view of the current landscape of business, in this region or generally and where your organisation sits within it?
In the UK we think eReading has only just begun. Kobo has created strong partnerships with key online
and retail partners, including premier retailers WHSmith and Asda.
Kobo and WHSmith for example, have formed a truly integrated partnership, and together, the companies will forge ahead as eReading industry leaders in the UK market. WHSmith recently trialed ‘Kobo Centres’ in some of its key locations, and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Due to this success, WHSmith and Kobo announced that 100 Kobo-branded experiential shops will launch within WHSmith High Street locations throughout 2012. These experiential locations will be staffed by Kobo experts that will guide customers through a customized eReading experience that will suit their needs.
We hope that our customers see this as a sign of our commitment to bring contemporary, stylish eReaders, and a best-in-class catalogue of eBooks to the UK.