Success Story

Penguin inspire their readers with personalized book recommendations

Understanding the end consumer is essential to developing a successful business and editorial strategy.


Penguin Random House is the international home to nearly 250 editorially and creatively independent publishing imprints. Their mission is to foster a universal passion for reading by partnering with authors to help create stories and communicate ideas that inform, entertain, and inspire, and to connect them with readers everywhere. Penguin Random House publish over 70,000 digital and 15,000 print books each year.


  • Drive sales of new and backlist titles
  • Drive engagement and brand loyalty among readers
  • Gain valuable insights to buyer preferences and behavior

The Challenge

A key challenge for Penguin is to get closer to readers. Understanding the end consumer is essential to developing a successful business and editorial strategy.

Following on from a consumer insights project which sought to profile book buyers based on their favorite genres and other attributes, the Consumer and Digital Development team at Penguin were tasked with devising an email campaign that would validate and build on this insight.

It was also an opportunity to promote selected backlist titles directly to readers, drive sales of these titles and build loyalty for the Penguin brand as a trusted source of recommendation.

The Solution

The Penguinspiration project aimed to re-create a bookshop experience via email. Subscribers were promised regular hand-picked and personalized recommendations, and were invited to complete a short questionnaire about their reading habits and preferred genres.

Recommendations are delivered in the form of a monthly email newsletter segmented by buyer profile – chart shoppers, heat seekers, connectors, connoisseurs, pioneers and thinkers.

The team worked to select titles from the Penguin backlist, with a focus on ‘undiscovered gems’ and to write staff recommendation blurbs specifically for the Penguinspiration newsletters. Affiliate links were used to track direct sales.


The monthly emails achieved an exceptional 59% average open rate over the lifecycle of project, with achieve consistently high engagement across all buyer segments.

A bonus and proof of concept for the segmentation was a very high conversion rate – a higher number of real conversions on this list compared to the general Penguin newsletter sent to a much bigger audience.

The initiative has also been successful in terms of delivering insights into the behavior and buying habits of the different segments, which will inform how titles are presented and marketed.

What’s next?

The team are planning to extend and grow the Penguinspiration project by reaching out to new readers and applying the segmentation principles behind the project to their upcoming new consumer website, as well as providing added-value ‘behind the book’ content such as author interviews, articles, book collections and editor’s picks.

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