Survey Results (Part 3 – On Videos)

So, one of our questions on our survey is how we can develop our videos.  It’s likely to be the last year we are going to ask that question as the answers we receive are generally not that useful.  It’s not that respondents aren’t trying – many of the suggestions are useful, just impractical.  Let’s tackle most of the comments in order:

Do more videos

As Kaja posted when we crowdfunded some of 2013’s videos, our paid-cost of generating a video is around $300 a video.  That’s not including pre-play time or the time cost of actually writing and memorising the scripts.  All in, I’d guess at around $500 – 600 in cost (salary, etc.) to develop a video.  So if we shot double the number (i.e. one video a week); we’d be looking at another $13,000 minimum.  That’s a lot of funds for something that has had limited revenue generation.

While the videos are part marketing for us, in the 2 years we’d done the videos it’s pretty clear that we have not generated additional revenue to cover the additional cost of doing the videos.  We still plan on shooting them next year, but 26 videos a year is our maximum.

Shoot a Tabletop / Play-Through Video

We shot one this September.  It’s still not released because, between all his other projects and the sheer amount of work a shoot like this requires, Rob has not yet finished editing it.  Along with working on this, he’s also got to release all the other videos we’ve produced since then. It was a fun project, and we’re looking forward to releasing it before the end of the year, but the work involved (and subsequent cost) is just too high.  We aren’t being funded by Google, after all.

Do More Up-to-Date Videos

Okay, this one is more in our control and we’ll actually be focusing on more up-to-date / recent releases.  As a marketing tool, we needed to cover all the classics and bestsellers to make this work for us.  As such, in 2013 we’ve had to do dig into some older items and with only half the videos as the previous year, we just couldn’t cover as many new releases as we’d like.  However, the good news is that we’ve caught up with the vast majority of older games, and going forward will be focusing on more recent releases.

As for doing videos of games before they are released, well — that’s really up to the publishers.  As this isn’t our real business, we don’t have time to chase publishers for new releases and can just hope they send them to us without promoting, allowing us to get the videos shot in a timely fashion.

Less Script / More Fun!

While it’d be nice to have more fun, it’s worth noting that both Joanna and Kaja are working from a very tight script, which is necessary to fit a full rules summary into the 5-minute target we set ourselves for that portion of the video.  We don’t want to go much longer — especially since there are so many other good video review series that do — which means we need to convey a ton of information in a very short time frame.  In addition, with only 2 or 3 takes per video, they just don’t have a lot of time to rehearse and get really comfortable with the script to make it more ‘natural’.

At the end of the day, with more practise they’ll get better (and have improved a lot over the 2 years these videos have been produced) but there’s only so much that can be done within the time-frame and structure.

No Rules Explanation / More Rules Explanation / More / Less Pro’s and Cons

The structure we have is actually focused specifically on our intended target audience.  We are looking to provide information to new visitors, as a quick overall summary of the game.  It’s not focused on those looking for an in-depth review of the game nor those who want a more in-depth discussion about the rules (or a ‘how to play’ review).  As such, the structure we use is one that we are very happy with, and that fits best with how we use videos on our website.  We’ve tweaked it a bit here and there; but can’t really see it changing much over the long-term.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the videos do what we need them to – provide good, relevant information to customers and branding for the site overall.  Our current structure is what we feel is the best method.  With over 10,000 subscribers; I’d guess it works. It’d be preferable if it could draw more revenue, but that I believe will come in time – a long term investment.

Survey Comments: A Rambling Answer (Part 1)

Question 28 of our survey was an open-ended question.  It was:

Is there an unaddressed need in the gaming market that we should focus on?

There were quite a few different answers in the question, but I thought I’d group some of the most common comments and our own thoughts.

On-site 3D-printed miniature service, from a basic modeling system.

Ummm… hmmm. Considering we’re an online store; it’d be interesting in that we’d have to then ship the orders out.  I just don’t see us getting into POD miniatures just yet.  For us, we need to increase our ‘regular’ miniature lines first.

Build a Board Game / Gaming Cafe / Game Store

There are a few reasons why we’ve not launched a gaming cafe.  Among them:

  • Lack of funds
  • Lack of expertise (never worked a cafe before)
  • Lack of time

I don’t see any of that changing in the near future.  The only way we’d be launching a game cafe or even a B&M store in the next 3 to 4 years would be if we did it as a partnership.

Lower Shipping Costs

Sadly, there’s very little we can do to alter shipping cost or ship times.  Shipping methods and cost, are a complicated matter but at the end of the day you’ll ‘pay’ for the shipping whether by higher prices or a lower margin on the retailer’s side.  Of course, there’s always the lowest level in margin that one can take; and so we come back to the customer ‘paying’ for shipping one way or the other.

Running regular gaming days

Again, not as viable as we’d like.  To start, we’d have to book a location.  Then we’d have to staff it (and pay for staffing).  Since it’d be a 3rd party location, we’d have to look at either bringing stock in regularly or foregoing any sales (most likely the latter for simplicity’s sake).  All of that is an additional cost, over and above what we have already.  It’s one thing when it’s part of your regular location (and can thus be easily monetized); another when it’s in a separate location I believe.

Warhammer 40k

As an online store, that’s not viable due to Game Workshop restrictions.

Storage Solutions for Large Games and Games and Expansions

Now this was interesting.  I’m not sure it’s something we can do ourselves; but it’s certainly something we will look into.  It’s one of those things that steps outside of our normal skillsets, but it is one of those suggestions that we were looking for.

Game Salute Games

Another interesting suggestion.  We did have the possibility of receiving Game Salute Games, but on a consignment basis at a much lower than normal margin.  Considering the cost of actually handling and managing a consignment of these games, we decided to forgo the option.  One particular case (Free Shipping) is a great example of why we’d need a higher (or our normal) margin at the least before we integrated Game Salute Games.  Till that percentage changes, we just can’t afford to do it.

Okay, that’s enough for now  – more comments in the next post.

 

 

Customer Survey 2013

Did we mention that our Annual Customer Survey is up and running? We run a survey every year, giving up a significant portion of our margin for a month for some business intelligence.  Is it worth it?

Depends on who you ask I guess.  We obviously think so, but it’s still a significant amount of money to ‘give up’.  If you intend to run a customer survey, there’s a few things to keep in mind.

Is this Statistically Relevant

Okay, we could probably run the survey and not give up the 5%.  However, we start running in the problem of statistically relevant datasets.  We generally have that problem anyway with specific categories of our customers who answer the survey (example, women customers – last year we had 16 respondents).  The more responses you can get, the better in general.  There’s an actual formula (of course) to figure out the number of respondents you want or need.

If you have a customer base of a 1000, you’d want (for a 5% confidence level 278 customers sampled).   The total numbers continue to go up as the number of customers you have increases, so for all intents and purposes in an in-house; non-professioanlly run test; you’ll want as many answers as you can.

If you can’t get statistical relevance on your data, you have to be careful about making decisions from the information.  Sometimes though, the little additional data garnered can coincide with your gut feelings; which can be enough to base some major business decisions on.

Why are you asking me this?

All too often, I’ve seen surveys (and yes, including ours) where questions are asked that have no real point to them.   Questions on the survey should do one of two things:

a) Categorise your respondents (example – have you purchased from us before differentiates customers and browsers)

b) Will provide data you can take with (in previous years, we asked where people found us via so that we could stream our advertising / marketing a bit further and evalutate our marketing spend).

In both cases, you are gathering data so that you can use.  Asking someone whether they are right or left-handed, while amusing; is not very useful.

Don’t Lead

Work on keeping a neutral tone to your questions.   The questions should be phrased so as not to lead the answers ‘Starlit Citadel is the best game store because…’ is not a good question. Especially if it precedes the question ‘Which is the best game store of the following’.

I’m not sure if active or passive voice matters, but I generally go with passive just because it’s less likely to have non-neutral terms in it.

Keep it Short(ish)

On one side of the equation, you want as much data as possible; especially actionable data.  On the other, if you keep the survey running too long; you’ll lose respondents.  Generally I find that surveys in the 10 – 15 minute range is about the maximum for online surveys.  Again – you can go longer if you provide an incentive (our coupon code here); while no incentive surveys mean you got to keep it short.

Just remember to test both the maximum length as well as minimum length (i.e. if someone answers ‘no’ to all your questions, what data are you getting and how fast is he going through the questionnaire) to get an idea of your survey ‘length’.

Don’t Forget to Compare

The answers we get this year is going to be a lot more useful for us than it was in  year 1.  Not only because we have made the questions better (yeah, we did) but also because we will have 2 years of previous questionnaire data to compare it to.  This can provide you some interesting results that you can track as your company / marketing changes.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to test

Lastly, make sure to test your survey.  We’ve managed to make mistakes even after testing the survey a few times, I’m sure this year there will be mistakes too or missing components.  The more testing you can do, the better

So that’s the quick and dirty for surveys.

PPS: When creating the questions, don’t forget to ask yourself the question ‘can I get this data better somewhere else?’.  I could ask people if my stock levels for products are good; but I get much better data by just keeping track of out-of-stocks, sales velocity and turn rates (i.e. actual sales data).  When you can, it’s better to track what people do rather than what they say they do.

 

New Category: RPGs

One of the biggest pieces of information to come out of the survey we conducted a few months ago was the fact that quite a few of our customers are interested in traditional roleplaying games (RPGs), which we haven’t been carrying many of up to this point. In order to fill this gap, we’ve brought in a bunch of books from a number of roleplay systems and created a new RPG Category on the main site.

The following items are currently available for order, with the majority in-stock and ready to ship immediately:

The Dresden Files

Dresden Files: Our World
Dresden Files: Your Story

Pathfinder:

Pathfinder: 1001 Spells (Pre-order)
Pathfinder: Advanced Player’s Guide
Pathfinder: Bestiary 2
Pathfinder: Core Rulebook
Pathfinder: the Dread Codex – Goblins (Pre-order)
Pathfinder: GameMastery Guide
Pathfinder: GM Screen
Pathfinder: In the Company of Monsters (Pre-order)
Pathfinder: Inner Sea World Guide Campaign Setting
Pathfinder: Night of Frozen Shadows Adventure Path
Pathfinder: Ultimate Combat

Savage Worlds:

Savage Worlds Action & Adventure Decks
Savage Worlds Deluxe Core Rules
Savage Worlds: Totems of the Dead (Pre-order)
Savage Worlds: Deadlands Player Guide (Pre-order)

Shadowrun:

Shadowrun 4th Edition: 20th Anniversary Core Rulebook
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Arsenal Core Rulebook (revised)
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Attitude Sourcebook
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Corporate Enclaves Core Setting
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Corporate Guide Sourcebook
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Dusk – Dawn of the Artifacts Adventure 1
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Midnight- Dawn of the Artifacts Adventure 2
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Emergence Campaign Setting
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Feral Cities Core Setting
Shadowrun 4th Edition: A Fistfull of Credsticks Adventure
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Ghost Cartels Campaign
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Vice Sourcebook
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Runner’s Black Book
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Runner’s Toolkit
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Running Wild Sourcebook
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Sixth World Almanac
Shadowrun: Spells and Chrome Anthology
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Spy Games Sourcebook
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Street Legends
Shadowrun 4th Edition: Street Magic Core Rulebook

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay:

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Adventurer’s Toolkit
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Core Set
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Creature Guide
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Creature Vault
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Edge of Night
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Game Master’s Guide
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Game Master’s Toolkit
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Game Master’s Vault
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Gathering Storm
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Omens of War
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Player’s Guide
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Player’s Vault
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Signs of Faith
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Winds of Magic
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Witch’s Song

Warhammer 40k: Dark Heresy:

Dark Heresy: Ascension
Dark Heresy: The Black Sepulchre
Dark Heresy: Blood of Martyrs
Dark Heresy: Church of the Damned
Dark Heresy Core Rulebook
Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema
Dark Heresy: Daemon Hunter
Dark Heresy: Dead Stars
Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods
Dark Heresy Game Master’s Kit
Dark Heresy Inquisitor’s Handbook
Dark Heresy Radical’s Handbook

Warhammer 40k: Rogue Trader:

Rogue Trader: Battlefleet Koronus
Rogue Trader: Citadel of Skulls
Rogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss
Rogue Trader: The Frozen Reaches
Rogue Trader: Into the Storm
Rogue Trader: Lure of the Expanse

This current set of products is meant to serve as a starting point for what will hopefully be a substantial RPG section, and we expect our product list to grow and change to meet our customer’s interests. If there’s a particular book or RPG system that you’d like us to stock, please contact us and we’ll bring it in if we can.

Starlit Citadel Survey Results

I thought some of you might be interest dint he survey results.  I am not going to post all the results, some of it will be no real interest to casual readers, others we feel might be a tad too personal (even if all the information is consolidated).

Game Research

Here’s the chart on how the survey respondents get information on products:

Board Game Research Methods

 

I’d show you the chart for what sites people visited but it’s a mess.  I definitely need to review how we ask that question, we just didn’t get the results we needed.  The only standout (big surprise) was BoardGameGeek. Otherwise, various fan review sites and publisher sites seem to be the other major sources.

On the Site

Of those customers who did the survey, 52% had purchased from us in the last 6 months.  Of course, I have a feeling that this is a biased response since the customers who would respond to get the 5% coupon would also be those with the most engagement.

For the most part, 56% of our respondents first purchased from us due to price. Otherwise, availability and convenience were the second and third most quoted reason for purchasing from us.

Other Hobbies

In terms of other hobbies, these were the responses that we received.

Other hobby interests by survey respondents

Not a huge surprise that our customers were gamers of one form or another.  What was surprising that many were role-playing gamers like myself.  Of the lines we could add, RPGs came out on top as well, so it’s certainly something we’ll be looking at closely in the near future.

Communication & the Blog

Most customers visited our homepage and used our newsletter as their main form of communication, with social media following far behind in comparison.

In terms of the blog, what customers really wanted to see were more reviews.   On that, we have the guest reviewers being added.

The Respondents

Here’s some quick pointers about our respondents:

  • 89% male
  • 11% female

Of these:

  • 55% were between 22 – 34
  • 30% were 35 to 44

And lastly, we’re a generally well educated group

  • 61% had a university degree or more
  • another 19% had some college (which could easily be those currently studying as well)

Conclusion

Hope you found the results as interesting as we did.  We have quite a bit of information now about our customers, some of which we’ll be using to improve the site and our marketing.  We’ll likely host another survey next year to get an idea about any changes.

Survey Results (2) : the One’s that Didn’t Make the Cut

When we conducted our survey for Starlit Citadel, there were a few comments that we found rather interesting, which we thought would make interesting discussions.  I’d like to post them here for your comments, especially if you see a comment or point that you’d definitely like to see us look into.

Community Involvement

We currently host gaming tables at VCon, Cos & Effect (the new Cosplay convention that’s replaced Anime Evolution) and GottaCon.  We are probably going to host a table at BottosCon as well and regularly donate games to both Can’t Stop the Serenity and the Diabetes for Gaming events.   We have also provided games to 1 Elementary School and 1 Camp at reduced prices to help promote gaming.

That being said, I’m not sure what else we could do to help promote gaming.  We don’t have a physical storefront to host regular gaming nights, nor do we have the human resources to regularly host one even if we did rent a place.  I am looking into developing a forums for the site to allow customers to interact and find one another, but outside of that, I’m tapped for suggestions.

German Imports

This is a tough one.  There’s 2 problems here – firstly, the last time we tried this, we found the cost of importing these games to be prohibitively high and the actual demand low.  Secondly, because I don’t speak German; it’s really hard to set-up and read the regular e-mail newsletters here.  However, I’m willing to give this another go if there is a high enough demand for this option.  Is there?

Product Comparison

A request was made to do side-by-side product comparisons (like what you’d see on most computer store sites).  We actually have the functionality on the site, currently turned off.  Turning it on would (a) clutter the website further and (b) slow-down page load time.  Is there interest for this functionality to be turned on?

 

Survey Results : Answering the Comments

As many of you know, we recently ran a survey and on the last page of the survey, we had a section that was an open comments section.  Many of the requests actually fell into the same subsets, so I thought I’d answer those as best as I could in this blog-post with the changes we’ve already undertaken / will undertake at Starlit Citadel or why not.  Don’t worry if your comments aren’t listed here or were positive, we saw them and will try to meet them if it’s feasible this blog post is to answer the majority comments as best we can :

Site Navigation & Design

Generally, comments on the site fell into the following categories:

  • Improve Search
  • More Product Information (release dates, recommended number of players & BGG ratings)
  • More varied Reward Points
  • More and better customer reviews

Changes:

  • A pair of new search modules that allows searches on information pages and autofills product information
  • Adding a new reward point option for creating tags

Forthcoming:

  • Adding a new ‘Expected release date’ page to the site
  • BGG ratings & rankings (might take a while, this requires coding!)
  • More product pictures.  This project is the next one slated after we finish building out shelves (about 2 weeks or so at current rate of progress)
  • Adding new promotional items for reward points and varied discounts. I’ll be field-testing some with regard to shipping to see if the code holds up.

Limitations

  • Well, sadly we can’t make customers review games, we can only incentivize them to do so.  It certainly seems we have been getting more reviews lately as we grow our customer base, so here’s hoping it continues to do so.
  • We also have an extremely large database of games currently, so updating any single information source (e.g. recommended number of players) takes a lot of time.  About 2-3 weeks of constant work.
  • Any work that requires coding is limited by the expense of working with our developers to create the custom code, so changes like that often occur in batches.

Local Pickups & A Storefront

There were a few areas that were requested with regard to local pickups:

  • easier scheduling
  • extended pickup hours
  • purchasing at the warehouse
  • a physical storefront / better location

Changes:

  • We set up the Google Appointment calendar so customers can schedule their own pick-ups.

Forthcoming:

  • We will undertake a trial run of some extended pick-up hours later this year during the Christmas season. Depending on the response, this might be extended to an on-going basis.

Limitations:

  • Cost.  The location we have is the best trade-off we could find between a convenient location (near the Cambie line & Skytrain) while keeping our costs low.  Sadly, we do have to give up a few things (like a proper entrance) for this trade-off.
  • Our current software is just too slow for order placement at the warehouse itself.  In addition, issues like cash handling and stock management come into play if we allowed this to happen on a regular basis; never-mind the fact that often we have orders that have to be packed before Canada Post / FedEx arrives.

Pricing & Shipping

Not surprisingly, the comments in this area boiled down to:

  • Lower Prices
  • Lower Shipping (or Free Shipping Thresholds)

Forthcoming:

  • In a few weeks, I’ll begin testing out the possibility of using Reward Points to discount shipping (or to reduce the Free Shipping Threshold).
  • We’ll be adding a regular sales special to the site as soon as we figure out how to automate some of the work of running the sales.

Limitations:

  • Capital investment.  Balancing how much of our profits go back into reinvesting and increasing our stock and how much to pay our on-going bills is a constant battle.  We currently have one of the largest selections of games in Canada, and are constantly increasing this selection.  We could lower our investment, and thus lower our prices but our selection would suffer.

Last Thoughts

We had a lot of fun reading all the comments, and while the survey could have been designed better (sorry about that !), we did glean a lot of valuable information.  We will probably be sharing extracts of that later on as well.

In addition, look out for a second post about individual comments that didn’t make the cut here, but that we found interesting.  We’d love to get your feedback on both the comments in this post and there as well.