The puzzles and board game retailer this year launched its direct-to-consumer ecommerce site and is building its customer database from the ground up to better personalize the shopping experience.

Are You Game?, a retailer of board games, puzzles and other activities, is ramping up for its first-ever holiday season as an online retailer.

AYG has been around for about 22 years as a drop-shipper for big-box stores like Walmart Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. (No. 2 and No. 18 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, respectively). That means AYG purchases products from a supplier, such as a manufacturer or a wholesaler, and warehouses those products. When a shopper makes a purchase of its products on Walmart.com or Kohls.com, AYG then ships the product directly to the consumer.

This year, however, AYG launched its direct-to-consumer site AreYouGame.com on Shopify and private-label Are You Game brand in July 2021. Its drop-shipping sales soared in 2020, and AYG continues to grow this year, says Ann Herrick, senior digital marketing director, without revealing specifics.

“Families were at home, looking for fun ways to spend time together and to escape the world for a bit,” Herrick says. “And then we have continued to see increased sales as we head into the second half of this year with direct-to-consumer.”

Now, AYG’s focus is gathering consumer data and building a customer database to personalize the shopping experience for its customers better, she says. “We’re focused on getting the consumer data and tailoring that to our marketing and site,” she says.

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Are You Game? targets niche customers to boost CTRs

The retailer sells a variety of about 3,000 products, all of which are in different categories—from puzzles to card games to family games to adult party games—so it needs to segment out the different types of customers to target them better. “We found that if we target specific people in those categories based on what they love and are buying, we see increased average order value and sales,” Herrick says.

For example, AYG sells 3D crystal puzzles, which is a type of puzzle that Herrick says has a dedicated collector fan base. When a shopper purchases one, that shopper information (name, email, products purchased) goes into AYG’s customer database. That way, when it is marketing new 3D crystal puzzles via Facebook ads or email, it can target that shopper, who then returns and buys multiple SKUs from AYG, she says.

In addition to the 3D crystal puzzles, there’s a group of AYG customers that purchase Disney-themed puzzles. So, AYG created an advertisement on Facebook for a Disney 3D crystal puzzle, which has had a 5% click-through rate versus its overall 3.8% click-through rate on other products.

“We saw Disney products selling well. Then, we added a Stitch 3D crystal puzzle, so we found an even smaller audience to target [with a Facebook ad],” Herrick says. After two months of running the ad for its Stitch 3D crystal puzzle, that product became AYG’s No. 1 selling item on its site, and the click-through rate on the ad to its website was 5%.

“Our cost per engagement is better on our Disney targeting than our overall,” Herrick notes without revealing figures.

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In addition to the Disney and 3D crystal puzzle fans, AYG finds adult party games sell well among college-aged shoppers and millennial parents, she says. When it’s targeting those shoppers with adult party games on Facebook, those ads see an 8.8% click-through rate versus its regular ads.

“It’s about finding those segments, marketing to them, then as they purchase from us, we tag them in that data, and then we can target them and continue to build our database,” Herrick says.

 

Email is also an important marketing tool for AYG as it uses its customer database to target its shoppers. Since July 2021, its emails generate a 40% open rate and 12% click-through rate for its targeted emails versus a 20% open rate and 2-4% click-through rate for its regular marketing emails.

“If you’re a shopper that loves crystal puzzles, then I’m going to send you an email when we have new ones, and then [from those emails] we’re getting higher open rates and clicks,” Herrick says.

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While the numbers are trending positive, she says, AYG is still in the initial stages of data gathering. The retailer uses Shopify to manage its customer database and serve up personalization, which is constantly evolving. However, Herrick wants to invest in more advanced technology for personalization in the next one to two years after she proves the revenue is coming from its personalization and targeting efforts.

“It’s really important that you get it right for the consumer,” she says. “You have to make sure your data is accurate and you’re pairing the data with the right buyer. If you’re a Disney fan and I’m targeting you with non-Disney products, then you’re not going to buy.”

As AYG heads into its first holiday season as an online retailer and private-label brand, Herrick is hopeful because “the demand is there this year.” But, like many other retailers, the challenge is product supply. Thus, AYG is securing its inventory now to get ahead of the rush.

“We’re trying to ramp up, so if consumers start to buy early, we’ll be ready,” Herrick says.

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