Thursday, April 16, 2015

5 Ways Online Hobby Shops Can Improve

Its not just decent selection and fair pricing...

Online shopping has made our lives so much more convenient. There is no shortage of retailers representing the hobby on the internet, and of course, I have a few favorites I return to for my must haves. Never the less, I have made a list identifying areas where I believe online shops could profit and in turn benefit us modelers. Let's begin, in no particular order.

Get a Blog


I would like to see more online shops get into the business of blogging. Currently, Squadron.com maintains a blog attached to their website and even Eduard, which functions as a company producing scale model products and a seller, has a functioning blog. Unfortunately, they are the exception and not the norm. While most online retailers are fairly active on social media, as well they should be in this day and age, I would like to see them adopt a blog.
Facebook and Twitter has made it ultra simple to stay current on up coming releases, sales, and other updates but I see a blog creating the potential to keep modelers interested without simply targeting our wallets.
It has been my experience as a blogger that modelers are a vocal bunch who love to share their opinions on the hobby and truly love to follow modeling as much as they get enjoyment out of building a kit. If the blog features interesting hobby related material it will certainly draw our attention and drive traffic to the webpage. The right content will open a dialogue between the company and the consumer within which we can see the business is about the hobby and not just our money. A blog that promotes how-to tutorials, the historical background of kit subjects, or even simply general modeling discussion will keep us engaged, educated, inspired and coming back for more.

Reviews


Of course, you can't have a blog and not have a review section. Why is this important? One of the first thing any modeler is going to look for prior to purchasing a kit is a review. Rather than just showing us an image of what their website is selling they could dive inside a kit and treat us to an in-depth look at what is, or will soon be, on their shelves. If a review of a product is included on the site, it prevents me from having to scour the internet to find one. It also shows me the company takes interest in the product and is willing to take the extra step to ensure modelers are armed with the right information to make a decision. Most importantly for the business, it keeps us on their website. If you give me a place where I can browse products and get a peak inside the box, I will be happy.

Better Pics


If you're selling a product, you should take a little time and spend some effort making that product look desirable. I hate it when a retailer takes one grainy photo of a jumbled up bag of resin, posts it to the website and calls it satisfactory. Would it kill them to maybe arrange the parts in a manner that displays the quality of the molds, and intricacy of the detail so as to entice potential buyers? No, it won't kill them. Neither will taking a few shots of the sprues contained in each kit instead of slapping a thumbnail of the box art in the catalog.
Give modelers something to look at, to get excited about, like a kid finding his brother's stash of Playboys. It doesn't take much to make a modeler drool, you just have to know what to wave under our noses - sprue shots, images of the finished product, whatever - anything is better than the picture every other online hobby is using on their site. I want to be enticed!
Don't force me to find better images some where else. Because, you know, I will.

Let's Make a Deal


Every website has sales. My problem with them is that they just aren't good enough. Say what you will, but there was a time when I would get more excited about securing a 40% off coupon to Michael's Arts and Crafts or Hobby Lobby than I was about seeing any weekend sale listed on Squadron or elsewhere.
I am sorry but telling me I can take ten dollars off my order if I spend seventy-five dollars or more is not enticing. Neither is reducing the price of two or three kits that I have no interest in any way or directing me to the Clearance section which is almost assuredly stocked with kits no one wants. You can flash sale me all you like but there is still a good chance its cheaper on eBay.
Am I just complaining too much? Maybe. But what I'm after is not necessarily saving more money. I want creativity. Recently Sprue Brothers promoted a deal that offered customers several free sheets of decals if they purchased a particular kit. Genius. I very nearly caved in and bought the kit. Though I didn't, the concept really intrigued me and I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for similar promotions. Considering the depth of the aftermarket, the possibilities are endless...

PayPal


PayPal has quickly become one of the premier ways to transfer money online. It is fairly safe, secure and hassle free and if there are a hiccups in the process, PayPal is generally competent enough to refund your money and settle the issue. Most significantly, its fast. You don't need a credit card, just a positive balance and a valid email address and you can make your payment in seconds. It is for these reasons that I can't understand why more online retailers have not started utilizing it. Currently, neither Squadron nor Sprue Brothers have approved PayPal as a method of payment.
For modelers like me, who keep money in PayPal strictly for hobby purchases, this is frustrating, as I would rather not turn to my credit card for the answer. If you are a dedicated scale modeler you are probably on eBay and owning a PayPal account is virtually a requirement for transactions made there. Furthermore, there are countless social media buy/sell/trade sights that you would be foolish to operate on without a PayPal account. Online retailers need to recognize how we do business outside of their stores and start tapping into the preferred method of payment by modelers across the globe - PayPal. Make it happen.


What do you think? Are these ways that would improve your online shopping experience or do you think I've totally lost my mind? Let me hear about it in the comments!
Thanks for reading.

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