Prevention Collaborative: Creating an Online Store for HIV Materials Development

Heads or Tails has been funded to convert many of our Instagram stories to glossy, full cover comic books as well as downloadable PDF editions. Books were going to be distributed at Pride and community and comic events such as Flame Con, and were also going to be shipped in bulk to libraries, CBOs and clinics for distribution. All comics include NIH resources on the inside cover, and all packages include an AIDSinfo handout. We also produced a variety of postcards that feature our original artwork on the front, and ACIOP and local HIV information on the back, which are distributed in packs of 10-15.

Fortunately we were able to stay on track with our printing schedule, however the books arrived just as the first wave of COVID-19 was emerging and businesses were closing. We had compiled a lengthy mailing list to ship books to, but couldn’t confirm what locations were still open. By April, all in person events through August had been canceled.

Lacking the expected opportunities for bulk distribution, our team chose to pivot and focus primarily on direct-to-consumer distribution. Using the WooCommerce plugin on our WordPress website, we added all print and digital materials as individual products with a price of $0 and free shipping on all items. We were also able to customize our checkout process in order to prevent users from being required to enter any billing or payment information. As orders are submitted, our program admin prints a packing list, purchases media rate postage through another WooCommerce integration, and prints the shipping label. Orders are typically packed and mailed within a 5 business days of being placed.

In the three months since the online store was launched, we have fulfilled almost 300 orders. This represents distribution of over 3,000 postcards, over 2,000 print books, and almost 100 digital downloads. By using this platform, we’ve been able to stay on or ahead of schedule with distribution while also gathering necessary metrics and compiling a contact list for future promotions.

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