ShopTo isn’t your traditional online video games retailer.
Apart from picking and packing certain games in less than five minutes and sending them out on the same day, the website also has its own iPhone app and text message service, where customers can check stock and prices on the move. It even recently launched its own news website.
Combined with its wide range of games, consoles, DVDs and gadgets at affordable prices, ShopTo stands out from the crowd.
The company picked up the Independent Retailer award at this year’s MCV Industry Excellence Awards, and it enjoyed its most successful month in March.
“That was due to lots of good new releases and the 3DS launch which was great for us as well,” says purchasing director James Rowson.
“I think one of the weird things is we don’t class ourselves as an independent, even though we are because by the nature of it we’re privately and independently funded.”
ShopTo wasn’t always a retail online store. CEO and owner Igor Cipolletta’s original idea was to be a UK wholesale distributor.
The firm saw an increase in demand and decided to set up a consumer website.
“That got a great reaction in its first year and gained recognition with hardcore gamers,” adds Rowson. “They felt like they were buying from someone who cared about gaming and preferred our service rather than going to the big nationals.
“It snowballed and grew bigger. Now the biggest part of our business is made up of hardcore gamers who come back for repeat purchase.”
In fact, around 70 per cent of ShopTo’s business is made up of pre-orders.
A lot of the firm’s success comes down to its courage and willingness to try new things and venture into new areas. Not only that, but its ability to adapt when needed.
DVDS AND TV ADS
ShopTo began stocking DVDs last year but has since scaled down this avenue of business. This is due to the heavy competition from retailers in the Channel Islands who can take advantage of the tax loophole there, especially following the VAT increase to 20 per cent earlier this year.
Rowson comments: “This has affected us. Although we’ve still seen a dramatic growth year-on-year, in the lower price products we’ve probably seen a drop-off.
“We still offer DVDs, but we’re not active in that market now, we’ve realised that we’re exceptionally good at what we do in gaming, and there’s still growth for us there which we’re seeing month-on-month.”
Other strategies have been more successful. The site ran its first TV ad last November in conjunction with Ubisoft to promote Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. It followed this up with pitch-side board ads for 3DS during the football match between England and Denmark in March.
ShopTo launched an editorial site in April featuring gaming news and reviews. Plus, its iPhone app has been downloaded 70,000 times since it launched last year. So what’s next?
“We’re looking at getting involved in the digital games market – I think you’ll see us do something this calendar year,” says Rowson.
“We’re going from strength to strength and I can’t see anything changing in the short term.”