As digital stores like Steam continue to dominate the gaming retail space, and the big etailers offer consumers an ever increasing array of gaming accessories, many bricks and mortar stores may think the era of being an important part of gamers’ lives is over.
But even if you’ve given up on selling boxed games, there are many other ways to make money out of the booming gaming sector.
We ask some retail and gaming industry experts just how independent stores can make sure they remain as a go-to place for those in the gaming community.
Add-ons and accessories
Selling to gamers is not just about selling actual games or the one console or PC that lasts for years.
In today’s market enthusiasts want to make sure they’re on top of their game. Whether it’s updating their monitor or refreshing their gaming mouse, customers will always need peripherals.
“The gaming market is set for a period of sustained growth and being active in this category now will generate significant sales benefits over the short and medium term,” Gioteck’s general manager, Alan Jones, tells PCR.
“Whilst a lot of focus is placed on hardware and software, the real margin opportunity is in accessories.
“Whilst hardware offers a high ticket, low margin opportunity, accessories such as headsets, controllers, cables and charging solutions offer good revenue opportunities at margins several times higher than hardware.”
Rich Marsden, director of VIP Computers, adds: “Mice are a huge part of our gaming business for obvious reasons. Another area that is seeing significant levels of growth is audio, especially at the high end because quality audio really adds to the overall experience so it is seen as being worth the extra investment.”
A sense of community
Once upon a time gaming was about sitting in your room on your own and smashing your way through each level of Sonic the Hedgehog. Every now and then you’d have a friend over to help you take on Dr Eggman, but nowadays gamers connect with each other all over the world – every time they switch on their PC or console.
As esports rises in popularity, the online gaming community is starting to become a physical thing too, as masses of gamers come together to take part in or witness big gaming events in the industry.
While independent retailers may not have access to stadium venues, it’s worth thinking about hosting smaller, local events in-store to piggyback off the buzz that’s currently surrounding esports.
“In terms of really driving footfall, retailers need to create something that gives shoppers a reason to go. It might be hosting a launch event when a new game comes out and inviting customers and local media to come and try before they buy, or setting up a competition or league table. Finding a compelling reason that will bring people to them as oppose to them just thinking ‘I can get it on Amazon’ is what’s important,” explains retail expert Clare Rayner.
As Electronics Sports League (ESL) UK’s James Dean points out, there are also opportunities for retailers to sponsor events: “This would give them brand visibility not only at the event itself, but also on the Twitch stream, which in ESL’s case, would amount to hundreds of thousands of viewers.
“Similar to any sponsorship of sports, associating their brand with a great production and entertainment is going to directly impact an increase in awareness and ultimately sales,” continues Dean.
Knowledge is power
If you want to attract gamers, you have to prepare for gamers’ queries and questions. Being able to display products in an engaging way, and talk about them confidently, is essential to this.
“VIP offers a range of services for small and medium-sized retailers through our VIP Club programme. These include local and in-store advertising support around game launches which in turn helps generate hardware sales, to hero ranges of brands with a ‘Sale or Return’ agreement eliminating the stock risk,” explains Rich Marsden.
“We also have an in-house gaming specialist who is on hand to talk through customer requirements, whatever they may be.”
Bryan Roberts, director of retail insights at Kantar Retail, warns that numerous specialists and generalist games retailers often fail to make the shopping experience exciting and interactive: “Technology should be introduced (and maintained) to drive trial and dwell time.”
He continues: “A games retail experience with a succession of blank screens is as dispiriting as a silent record store. Space for gamers to socialise and interact would be no bad thing either, while the full provision of related accessories can create a sense of immersion as well as offering high margin opportunities too.”
Knowing your customers
While it’s evident that there are many types of gamers that you could potentially attract to your store, it’s important to realise just what kind of store you want to be, and what kind of customers you regularly serve.
“You’ve got some games retailers who are out and out enthusiasts and others who have customers who are absolutely clueless, and have been asked to buy something as a gift, and they need some experience and guidance. So retailers must understand who their core customer is and what they need,” Clare Rayner tells PCR.
“It’s important to find out what role you play in the shopper’s experience and make sure that you become the best place to go to when it comes to that product or service,” Rayner adds.
Once you know you’re attracting gamers into your store Rich Marsden believes retailers shouldn’t be afraid to sell further up the stack: “It’s very easy to talk gaming and then offer a £14.99 headset. Lots of people do it but in my opinion it’s a missed opportunity. The truth is, gamers want the latest technology and think nothing of spending £100 on a keyboard. Even a casual gamer will spend £25 to £50 on a mouse. So if you’re serious about attracting gamers to your store then your offering has to be right.”