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Making the Most of your User Shop

by arcanegoat


Focusing On A Market Segment

There are many resources describing how to restock your rent. So now your shop is full of goodies to sell to the rest of Neopia…but how does Neopia know that? There are very limited resources for advertising, and few people realize what options are available for getting the word out. How can you avoid the randomness of the shop wizard directing people elsewhere? Hopefully, these tips will help improve your sales!

The first step to optimizing your shop is to determine who you’ll be selling to. You’ll be getting a lot of customers, and while some are just looking for an item and will never see your shop again, others are looking for a particular type of item, or trying to complete a quest. Some are looking to add that special item to their gallery at a reasonable price, and others are trying to stock their store so they can make neopoints too.

There are several benefits to focusing your inventory. If someone stops by to pick up one book and sees you have several others, that one sale may turn into a sale of five or six different items. It’s less likely that someone who comes into your store to buy a copy of Acara Algebra will also buy that Classic Dining Room Table and Green Scorchipepper in the same visit. Targeting a group also makes it more likely that your customers will be back, because they know what to expect from your shop. This is the point at which your store is no longer a “user shop”. In the customer’s mind, it has because a “book shop” or a “candy shop”. This makes it a lot more likely that they’ll return. It might be because they’ve gotten good deals, or they’re shop banned, or a number of other reasons. Whatever their reasons are, repeat customers are always a very good thing, and one of the best ways to get the most out of your user shop.

There are several focus groups that can be targeted, and deciding which groups you want your shop to cater to can be very important. A lot of the methods for pulling people into your shop depend on what groups you focus on. What items you sell can determine which groups you will want to target, or the groups you target can determine which items you will want to sell. Here’s a brief list of people you can expect to be visiting your shop, although by no means are they all listed.

Typical Shoppers – These people are looking for a specific item. There isn’t much you can do to cater to them, or pull them back into your shop. They are the “generic” shoppers of Neopia. If they like what they see in the shop, though, they may quickly turn into a “lured shopper”, and may even bookmark your shop for future purchases. If you typically price your items a little below the shop wizard, they may become “restockers”—even if they don’t run a mall!

Restockers – These are a good target group. They buy items out of your shop to resell them at higher prices. The downside, for them, is that they may have to wait for a while for the items to sell. Many of these people are running a department in a “mall”, which allows them to have higher prices and still have a turnover. Their shops are also very focused, often having all Furniture or Books or Scratchcards—so if your shop is also focused on these items, it’s a good bet they’ll be back. These customers are likely to bookmark your shop if you consistently sell items they need and have reasonable prices.

Quest Shoppers – They need a Plushie Arcmite, NOW! Some of your customers are looking for a particular item to complete a quest, often Jhudora’s or Illusen’s. It could also be a faerie quest, or needing a codestone for training, or something else. However, Jhudora and Illusen quests are time-based in regards to the score, so they want to move fast! These customers greatly appreciate shops that have low-overhead, no music downloads or animated backgrounds, and preferably little to no commentary up at the top. If you typically sell items that can occur as quest items, there’s a chance they’ll bookmark your shop.

Lured Shoppers – These fellows usually stopped by as a “typical shopper”. Often because you have an inventory focused on their favorite pet, or because they’re a book reader and you sell books, or you just have a lot of unusual items, they’ve decided to browse through your shop. Often, if they see something else they want, they’ll buy it from your shop rather than go back to the shop wizard.

Groupie Shoppers – With fame often comes fortune. Many pet owners have discovered, sometimes to their dismay, that winning the Neohome competition or similar award has some fringe benefits. If your name ends up in a top score list, or you win a competition like Poetry or Neohome, your name is now emblazoned in neon letters for a few days or weeks. The number of people visiting your Neohome, Shop, Gallery, User Lookup, Pet Lookups, and anything else related to you will increase exponentially for a while. If they’ll be there anyhow, you should take advantage of this and optimize your shop in any way you can to ensure that when the next big thing comes along and your fame has faded from the minds of Neopia, they still have your shop bookmarked.

Collectors/Neohomers – They may be adding to their gallery, or their stamp collection, or a collection they maintain in their SDB—or their neohome. Whichever it is, if you happen to have an inventory focused on what they collect, they are more likely to browse, and more likely to be back again. After all, someone who collects Plushies is more likely to bookmark a shop specializing in toys than they are a shop with books or furniture in it. They’re very similar to Restockers, except that they probably won’t be reselling the items.

Return Shoppers – They’ve bookmarked your shop for whatever reason, and now they’ve returned. Return shoppers are an excellent customer base to have. After you’ve established a good customer base, you can sell items at a much higher price than the prices in the shop wizard…for a while. It’s a good idea not to abuse this privilege, though, or that bookmark may be deleted. Typically, I’ve found this works best when I have maybe 10-20% of my items priced high. They may take a while to sell, but more often than not someone will be in your shop and buy it.

Typically, which group or groups you target will be determined by what you sell. Almost anything can be expected of typical and restock shoppers. Collectors usually are focused on something that just isn’t feasible to run a shop based on, but can be. Neohomers are interested solely in furniture and gardening items. Groupie shoppers can vary. Quest shoppers have certain groups of items that are expected for quests, and some research would indicate what those are.

Most shoppers don’t fit cleanly into one category…for example, I buy books for my pet Quintessan to read (a collector shopper), I also use them to stock my store (restocker), and I also have other passing interests, such as my gallery of Scorchio-related items (again, a collector shopper). But looking at that, you know that I won’t be bookmarking a shop filled with just chocolate candy.

Customizing Your Shop and Get the Word Out

Everyone Loves A Good Deal. The fastest, easiest way method of getting people into your shop is to have a good deal. Whether you throw some codestones in at 2400 NP apiece, or a copy of Osiri’s Pottery Guide in for 3000 NP, you can be certain it will be snatched up in minutes. The trick is to select an item that you’ll still make a small profit off of, but can price much cheaper than what the shop wizard has listed. Often, when someone finds a good deal like that, they’ll take the time to check out what else is in the shop. They might also bookmark the shop. This is something you only want to do once in a while, but it is very effective.

Specialty Shops Get Repeat Business. Find something to specialize in. Books are a good example. If you always sell books and frequently have several different ones in stock, the likelihood that a customer will bookmark your shop is much greater.

Customize Your Shop To Your Targets. The shops of Neopia give you a lot of flexibility to stylize your user shop. However, as cool as some features may seem to be, it may be costing you customers. Here’s some of the most common tricks and features used, and how you can expect a shopper to react to it.

1. Music – a lot of people like to put music in their shop. Typically, this will catch a shopper’s attention, especially if it’s a piece of music they also enjoy. However, there are several serious drawbacks. The customer’s computer has to download the music. This can take time, especially on slower computers or slower internet connections. Combined with other intense features below, it makes it possible that the shopper’s computer will lock up. If you use music in your shop, expect no Quest Shoppers, and few Restock Shoppers. Collectors will bear with it if your prices are extremely cheap and Groupie shoppers will probably revel in it.

2. Animated Backgrounds – typically falls into the situation as music.

3. Large Headers – While you may be a big fan of a particular movie, having nine images of the movie posters for it can be an issue. Generally, no shopper is going to want to scroll through several pages of images to get to your inventory. If you must have all those images, consider using a blog or something similar. That way you have a small viewport and customers can still get to your inventory easily. Or move the whole layout to your gallery and go with a more bare-bones approach to decorating your shop.

4. Scrolling Windows – Several shops seem to enjoy putting their inventory in a scrolling window (or DIV section), or otherwise modify the location of the inventory. Sometimes it turns out pretty well, but many of them don’t. A user with this style of shop can expect very few lured shoppers, as their shop is specifically designed to NOT optimize presenting their inventory. Any customers they have will probably buy the item that they were looking for, and leave.

5. Very Busy Backgrounds – Once again, this makes it very difficult to browse, so don’t expect many Lured or Repeat customers.

6. Image Filters and Colored Fonts – Lots of these work well, but some of them present the same issues as Scrolling Windows and Very Busy Backgrounds. Having your shop’s background black and text dark grey makes it very difficult to read, and most customers aren’t going to be interested in browsing. Likewise, filtering an image to the point where it is unidentifiable is definitely going to decrease your sales and repeat business.

Price your Items with an Eye on Turnover. With most types of items, if you match the lowest price in the shop wizard, you can expect it to sell fairly quickly, usually within a day. However, if you have the resources, you can price the item higher. It will take a longer time to sell…perhaps months. So while you might make additional neopoints doing this, you can also expect a much slower turnover of product. It makes sense to price items you get the most often lower, so you have a faster turnover, whereas items you get less frequently you might price a little higher unless you really need the money.

Don’t Flood the Market. Generally, this refers to restockers, but anyone can benefit from this advice. While it’s wonderful that you have 200 copies of Algebra, they’ll actually sell slower if you put all 200 in your shop at once. Very simply, there are several potential customers that won’t buy items from your shop if it looks like you’ve been trying to corner the market by cleaning out all the cheaper stores. They’ll sell much faster at the same price if you put 5 in your store and the other 195 in your SDB, and then replenish your store’s inventory as people buy your product.

Adjust your Prices As Necessary. Sometimes, something just doesn’t sell. Try to keep the prices in line with the rest of Neopia by occasionally making adjustments. I typically adjust my prices every couple of days on items that aren’t selling at all, a couple of times a week on items that are just selling slower than I want them to.

Not all these tips are going to be applicable to your shop, but following the general idea of these tips is a good start on establishing a thriving business in Neopia!

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