Aughmoore needs a hero… we read in a message that the raven brought us, and at Frogriot, we never leave those in need at the mercy of the forces of evil. We immediately boarded our airship, only to find out that Gamelyn Games – a board game publisher – was looking for mercenaries to deal with their old and ugly e-commerce platform. We took the job, it was time to slay this monster.
In this case study, I am going to showcase the steps that led us to build the best e-commerce platform for a board game publisher. I am also going to demonstrate how to sell more via this specific channel. If you are all about the numbers, rather than the process description, you might want to jump straight to the results.
The vast majority of board games are sold by bricks and mortar game stores – at least this is true for the sector as a whole; the situation of individual publishers varies greatly. Some use the power of Kickstarter to promote and sell their games, while others resort to Amazon or their own e-commerce store. In some cases, they use multiple platforms and as a result, they run a number of distinct and separate sales channels. Thus, an e-commerce platform run by a board game publisher needs to not only drive sales but also manage user traffic to the right channels.
When I set out to do this, from the very beginning I wanted us to build something special – not just yet another e-commerce platform. We wanted to make a platform that would not only stand out in the market but also become a benchmark for other board game publishers. It certainly was an ambitious task; however, it turns out that impossible is nothing when you have a team of seasoned adventurers with you.
We wanted to make a platform that would not only stand out in the market but also become a benchmark for other board game publishers.Adam Mucha CEO @ FROGRIOT
The entire process of building Gamelyn Games’ new platform can be broken down into several key elements:
Before starting the quest, we took a deep look into our palantír to make sure that our market research on the e-commerce platforms used by this particular sector – both game publishers and online stores – was up to date. We took a particularly close look at the existing solutions, focusing on both sales and platform design. This allowed us to better understand the market and come to the conclusion that the board games market is not properly exploiting the opportunities afforded by e-commerce in combination with social media.
At the same time, based on conversations with the client, we defined goals for the new e-commerce platform:
Gamelyn Games built and established a mythical land of Aughmoore, which is used as a setting for many of their games. That is why I came up with the concept of Board Game Kingdom – I wanted to take customers and users on a journey to the world of Aughmoore with visuals and all the messages. What did Gamelyn Games have to say about this? They loved it! We had a design direction and communication style – time to go on an adventure!
In the process of our research it quickly dawned on us how rare it is for game publishers to take advantage of the power of community to boost their sales. The gaming community is thriving and creating an enormous amount of content on games. Let’s see… and try to find another incantation in my spell book. Take advantage of this fact in our work on the platform – especially seeing how studies show that 70% of customers who buy board games are guided by recommendations. We made the decision to separate the sales and content aspects of the platform, linking them using community posts. Thanks to this solution, users looking to purchase the game can learn more about it from the community they trust, allowing us to design seamless transitions between the content and the product page, making the purchasing path easier.
The content part of the new platform was dubbed Gamelyn’s Gazette – it is an extensive blogging platform, which allows the company to serve content of many kinds, with particular emphasis on community posts, such as YouTube videos or Instagram photos. What is more, every single post presented on the platform can be linked to any product available in the store. By doing so, every post is accompanied by a large box that leads to the product page and allows the readers to add the product directly to the cart.
The e-commerce side of the platform includes all subpages and functionalities required for the store to work properly – product pages, cart, checkout, and registration. The product pages feature all the posts from Gamelyn Gazette concerning that particular game in addition to the product-related content – thanks to this approach, the user can learn more about the game based on the opinions and feedback of well-known members of the board gaming community. In a way, this also serves as an incentive for the influencers, who will be more eager to create content for Gamelyn Games if – for example – their video is shared and embedded on the Gamelyn Games website, letting them reach more viewers, gain fame, popularity, laurels
and half the kingdom. Clever, huh?
Now that we have the framework out of the way, let’s get to work.
As a result of the user experience process, we created detailed documentation of the platform, including a list of features and content architecture – making the work of our graphic designers smooth as butter. With this out of the way, we started the implementation of the new platform – programming. I am going to skip all the standard e-commerce modules, which are hardly special – instead, I will focus on a number of features we implemented, which largely contributed to success in achieving the set goals:
It is obvious that every store these days needs to be compatible with mobile devices. We need to ask ourselves a simple question – why is this the case? Well, mostly due to the way games publishers communicate with us, as well as the habits of the people of Aughmoore – consumers. Social media and streaming services remain the most important way to learn about the games, and the vast majority of people consuming content use mobile devices to do so – hence the need to make the purchasing process as convenient as possible for mobile users. What are some of the results of poorly designed mobile experiences? Abandoned carts or – in the worst case scenario – giving up on purchases at an earlier stage. It’s hardly optimal if the objective is to boost sales.
It makes it essential to make it easy for the user to discover the product and make the purchasing process as smooth and seamless as possible. Product discovery, which involves the presentation of the product itself and a search engine is all about UX, and we made it work very well with the right combination of features and views. The shopping process, on the other hand, is mostly about the cart, sign-up, checkout and that monstrous form with the data that nobody likes to fill out. This is where mobile payment services like ApplePay and GooglePay come to the rescue – not only do they make the process significantly faster by letting users skip entering their credit card details, but they also have this magical ability to fill in all address details required for product delivery – all thanks to storing addresses within the service. Mobile should be fast, seamless and efficient – and that’s exactly what we did with Gamelyn Games. As a result, we also managed to increase the sales volume.
Among the goals for the new platform was increasing the average order value, or AOV for short – by the way, you should definitely read the post about boosting AOV, written with board game publishers in mind. Board games seem to be the perfect product for exploiting cross-selling techniques – offering the prospective buyers some additional products based on goods that they have already selected – buy a sword, and get some draconid oil for it, as well as up-selling methodologies, for example by suggesting a better variant of the same product – buying a sword? Maybe we could interest you in a sword with +15 damage modifier against ghouls?). The key here is to make the suggestions more than just a pushy cash grab – we need to present them in a way that makes them seem like advice concerning an actual need (which users may not even know about yet). In the case of cross-selling, we decided to focus on suggestions while adding a product to the cart and in the cart itself.
Up-selling, on the other hand, includes Bundles and upgraded versions of games. What were the results? We managed to achieve a significant AOV boost, but we’ll get to the details in the next paragraph.
Community building was one of the core concepts that the new platform was built upon; however, we also had to keep the sales goals in mind – that’s why we decided to bring these two aspects together. These efforts resulted in the Gamelyn Gazette – a blogging platform of sorts, which offers various content from the world of Gamelyn and lets the fans read about all things related to the company. What is more, every single piece of content can be linked to a specific product available in the store. For example, a post about the opening of the late pledge manager for Tiny Epic Dungeons will have a small banner redirecting the user directly to the product page, or even letting them make a purchase from within the post itself.
This also works the other way around – if the user ventures to the product page, they will see selected Gamelyn Gazette posts about said product. What makes it so special? All the posts – reviews prepared by well-known influencers, as well as other board game community materials – are carefully selected and hand-picked, allowing the company to present the product in just the right way, positioning it as something popular, something that people talk about and recommend to each other – in other words, we want to make it stand out and shine like a gem in the queen’s tiara. I have already mentioned that recommendations drive the majority of purchasing decisions of board game players – that is why we took advantage of the fact in order to boost sales volume without forcing users to do anything on the platform. The Gamelyn Gazette was also turned into a newsletter – and we encourage both existing and prospective customers to subscribe to it – all to build a community of brand fans, which is paramount in this world.
Large board game publishers usually offer several distribution options, and Gamelyn Games is no different in that regard. In some cases, retail sales are handled by the e-commerce platform, while the communication with other stores and distributors is based on other tools, such as (
homing pigeons e-mail). We decided to take the opportunity to simplify the buying process for distributors and stores, while shortening the order handling and processing times for Gamelyn Games as well (die, e-mails!). The inner workings of the new platform enabled us to implement two additional account types for external stores and distributors, which have access to a completely different product range with different prices and quantities; however, all the orders and inventory are managed using a single panel. As a result, order handling is faster, easier and more enjoyable for both parties.
Board game publishers often have to deal with situations where their games are out of stock for a while, until more are printed. This is less than optimal, since it prevents the prospective buyer from making the purchase, and even if the availability date is clearly visible, it is going to get lost among dozens of other
missions in the quest log news about games. That’s why the Gamelyn Games platform lets users sign up for availability alerts concerning a given game. As soon as the stock is replenished, the clever shipping gnomes will send out the news to all users who wanted an alert. This makes for a perfect way to boost the sales volume – albeit it is going to bring results in the long run. What is more, it is also a good way to improve customer service.
Before I go on to discuss the results, I believe that pointing out the following two things is very important:
All good salespeople and business owners keep a close eye on their treasury by keeping up to speed with the figures. Let us then go ahead and see the impact of our changes on the reality. Let’s start with retail – the launch of the new platform was a step change – the annual sales went up by +66%, mostly because we managed to boost AOV by +60%.
As far as the wholesale market is concerned, the outcome of the changes is even better; however, we have to keep in mind that some of this is the result of bringing more existing customers on board with the new system. Nevertheless, the changes resulted in boosting annual sales figures by +215%!!! – you have to admit that it is a result worth highlighting (and that we deserve at least half a princess for that 😉 ).
We should also note that we managed to achieve these results even though the number of visitors went down by 5% – so I believe these results clearly show the story of a successful transformation of the Gamelyn Games platform.
Figures and numbers are fun – but that’s not what the new platform is all about. The outcome of the process can also be shown using two other values, which might not be directly measurable, but that will also bring profits in the long run. It might be impossible to measure customer satisfaction resulting from awesome customer service and seamless order processing, but you can safely assume that great shopping experiences will make your customers more likely to return and buy more products from you. And this is hardly just about sales – quick processing and handling of returns, as well as shipping missing bits and pieces are also important in this regard. We designed these elements in such a way as to position GamelynGames.com as a benchmark for other board game e-commerce platforms.
And finally, we have arrived at the second immeasurable, yet perceptible value – feedback. We have been hearing very positive feedback from the community and business partners alike – and positive feedback means better perception of the company, thus giving it an edge in negotiations – a fact that cannot be overlooked in the world, where licensing agreements and entire companies are sold and bought every day. But wait, there is more… Namely the value of the company. Thanks to an efficient, modern, and seamless sales tool that makes the company money – their e-commerce platform – their valuation is going to go up, which might be crucial when they decide to sell the company or pursue other opportunities.
E-commerce is challenging – there’s no doubt about it, and a huge part of the learning curve comes from learning about the products, customers, and all the little things which have an impact on choosing the right tools to boost sales. This choice makes all the difference.
These days, simply having an online store of your own is not going to be enough, you need a dedicated, bespoke tool to start seeing real growth and maximising your sales opportunities.
And that’s where you can count on us – FROGRIOT, the brave adventurers of the e-commerce world. If you are looking for experts well-versed not only in online sales, but also the board game publishing market, you couldn’t have found a better place to come.
This story is over – but it does not mean that our adventure with Gamelyn Games ends here, as the e-commerce world is like a dragon protecting its hoard – it never sleeps. There is always something to add or improve, that’s why we keep improving the platform, trying to optimise the results. The monster was slain, but work in the kingdom never stops.