Gamers have always been some of the most savviest of shoppers. They know what they need in order to achieve the kind of in-game precision that’s going to overthrow their competitors, and as such, demand a lot from the computers, peripherals and accessories they kit themselves out with.
While this may strike fear into the hearts of general retailers who perhaps don’t have a dedicated gaming team, or put off new retailers who fear they might not be able to make a big enough impact against more well-established stores, there is huge demand for gaming gear, and it’s not all PC-specific either. With console and mobile gaming thrown into the mix, retailers are seeing impressive increases in sales of gaming-related products.
“We are seeing a year-on-year increase in sales that is predominantly driven by our gaming line up,” Ben Miles, sales director at PC builder Chillblast, tells PCR. “The meteoric rise of esports and the consistent growth of PC-centric Twitch and YouTube channels all helps to create awareness and deliver exposure to the PC platform.
“Around 75% of our sales are for gaming PCs, whether that’s entry-level starter systems or powerful flagships designed to run the biggest AAA titles on the highest settings.”
James Clayton, junior buyer of computing at multi-brand online retailer Shop Direct reveals a similar boost: “In the first half of 2018, sales of gaming devices grew by more than 50% year-on-year and accounted for around 25% of our total laptop and desktop category.”
Craig Hume, managing director of customer PC and workstation builder Utopia Computers, explains how gaming touches every aspect of the retail business “from the obvious lines like gaming desktops and laptops through to an increase in mobile repairs due to customers dropping their phone while playing Pokemon Go in the park”.
“Gaming is becoming so intertwined in technology I think it’s hard to draw a line as to when gaming sales stop and other sales start,” says Hume, who cites esports as another big driver.
“The rise in esports has been awesome for the channel. Gamers want to use the same gear that they see their favourite players, teams and streamers use, it has also helped normalise the idea of spending £100+ on individual peripherals. This has helped Utopia build sales of quality products from the likes of SteelSeries and CoolerMaster.”
Both Miles and Clayton agree that esports is a lucrative section of the gaming market. In fact, Chillblast and Shop Direct have partnered to offer (leading esports team) Fnatic-branded desktops.
Looking specifically at gaming PC and laptops, all three retailers were positive about sales.
“Every day we have parents asking us what their children would need to run a certain game, or to stream and create content,” says Miles. “Increasingly we are seeing new entrants into the world of gaming wanting the flexibility and power of a PC right off the bat rather than the limiting experience a console affords.”
Hume agrees that PCs are proving popular: “There has never been a better time to be a PC gamer, awesome titles, amazing graphics, a growing community of esports and streamers to be inspired by…What a brilliant time to be a gamer!”
Shop Direct has not only seen an increase in gamings PCs, but Clayton also points out that its sales of gaming laptops overtook desktops for the first time ever in Q1.
“The UK gaming desktop market is dominated by local system builders who do a brilliant job in this space. However, gaming laptops play far more to the strengths of the global OEMs, who are really driving the demand with better, lower priced devices and big investments into ATL marketing,” he says.
In store or online?
With business looking good in the gaming gear sector, should retailers be focusing their efforts on enticing gamers in-store or driving sales through online?
“It’s tough out there on the high street, retailers need to grab every opportunity they have to engage with customers and show that they are still a relevant place to shop in 2018,” says Hume. “Gaming gear can be a force for good in any retail store, but in order to attract tech savvy gamers you, at the very least, need a strategy and good product knowledge.”
Clayton believes that online can provide a more fruitful opportunity for retailers as “gamers live online and devote a lot of time to browsing the technology for their passion”.
“There are dedicated forums where gamers discuss new releases and can compare their ‘rigs’. As online retailers we can carry a far wider and more up to date range than our in store competitors which goes hand-in-hand with this customer behaviour,” he says.
Miles meets somewhere in the middle, saying there is scope for an increase in sales both online and in store. “With the entire ecosystem being predominantly online, where social media is so influential, the majority of customers will transact their purchase online as well,” he says. However, he points out physical sales are still of huge importance, especially for the peripheral side of the market.
“This is an area where the feel, look and sound of an item is critical to a customer,” Miles explains. “A big focus for the peripheral companies and resellers is events, from UK shows like Insomnia to professional esports events like ESL One. It enables an increase to brand awareness amongst the attendees but also allows the “try before you buy” experience.
“This can swing sales in favour of a brand or product by creating physical attachment in a customer’s mind that they liked the way a product felt or performed in real life.”
Get in the game
So what advice does Chillblast, Utopia and Shop Direct have for retailers looking to get in on the gaming action?
“The PC gamer is one of the savviest and most knowledgeable consumers in the UK today. Ensure your offer is overtly PC gaming and be wary of patronising the customer by over simplifying or watering down the messaging, however well-intentioned this may be,” advises Clayton. “It’s also vital to have a USP in an increasingly crowded market. At Shop Direct we provide our customers with market-leading finance options which are well suited to the high ASP world of PC Gaming.”
Miles, offers this to new retailers: “The best advice we can give is to set yourself very high standards for any entry into gaming and esports. The marketplace is already saturated with companies trying to get involved, so any marketing should be unique, targeted and properly and accurately researched. The target audience is very technologically minded and, as such, won’t settle for anything less than top quality items that they feel will add value to their experience.”
Lastly, Hume advises retailers think about their message to gamers and offer something the big online stores can’t: “How are you going to let them know you are the best place in their area to buy from and how are you going to convert them in store or online?
“Many stores buy some kit, stick it on a shelf, and wait for something magical to happen. You need to attract gamers with events, giveaways, promotions and best of all, have products out on the counters to try… that’s the one thing Amazon can’t do yet, so maximise your advantage while you have it!”