Why Are We Here?

One retailer concern that keeps coming up is the swing of customer purchases moving directly to the manufacturer. Technology allows the manufacturers to reach the customers more easily than ever before. This has forced me to revisit the need for the stores. Why does the industry need them if a gamer can go directly to his game’s website, purchase, get news, and keep up with new releases?

One thing so far unchanged by technology is the process of getting new customers. Sure, a manufacturer can create a demo on his site in some cases, but that doesn’t do anything to attract new customers. It just helps convert people already visiting the website.

Distributors never meet customers. That’s not something that they can help with. It’s clearly not their role.

Retailers are best suited to make new customers, preferably with the aid of those manufacturers who stand to gain the most from these new customers. Any retailer must have in mind a plan for new customer acquisition along with his basic vision of his store. How will he reach people, how will he get their interest, and how will he sell to them? These questions have to be answered and answered intelligently.

“Word of mouth” is not an intelligent answer. Your answer might include a combination of traffic count and exterior signage and window displays. That could be a part. Mass media advertising might be a part. Internet advertising might be a part. Outreach programs like school game clubs might contribute to the effort. Regardless of the details, getting new people in the door has to be as much of the job as ringing up sales and ordering restocks.

I’ll go one step further. You can’t tack on new customer acquisition, like a modular expansion. It has to be built into your plan. If the traffic count and signage is part of your plan to get people in the door, your opening costs and ongoing costs in your financial projections have to reflect that. You don’t get top visibility with an average rental rate. If your focus is on servicing a whole family rather than just the middle-aged overweight white guys, than your inventory choices, store layout, colors used, and everything has to accommodate the moms and rugrats.

The stores I’m seeing open up without my advice (locally, at least) are opening with no marketing plan that includes new customer acquisition. They sell primarily to an existing market. They’re servicing a single product or a single game category. At best, they’re working Facebook. Game stores need to establish this value for themselves if they want to be considered when manufacturers make decisions like where to sell their product and where to spend their marketing dollars, retailers need to demonstrate a collective value. If manufacturers were still convinced that they couldn’t survive without the retailers, stores would get the strong support that used to be available in the industry again.

By adopting new customer creation as our role and embracing it with a full-fledged effort, we can do that.