Launching ecommerce brings in $135K with the help of a trusted local expert
Amazing Stories is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Comic, game and pop-culture retailer established in 1993
Looking for an ecommerce solution at the onset of the pandemic
On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Within two weeks, Amazing Stories owner Jeff Kocur and his team were forced to close the doors. Other than a few curbside sales each day, painstakingly managed manually over the phone and through their Facebook page, the retail store had no way to make its thousands of instore products available to customers. Discover how they made the leap to digitally transform their brick-and-mortar businesses with the help of a trusted local expert using the Vendasta platform.
Trusted experts to the rescue for local business launching ecommerce to combat brick-and-mortar closures
in less than a year
The journey to ecommerce
Jeff Kocur’s love of pop culture began early on in his life. Comics were always a big interest and taught him how to read. He formed connections with the characters within the illustrated pages. In August of 1993, Kocur turned his passion into a way of earning a living and supporting his family. He opened Amazing Stories and has served the community in Saskatoon, Canada for nearly three decades since. The store’s shelves are filled with comics, action figures, games, and sought-after pop culture memorabilia.
Over the years, the team at Amazing Stories has built personal relationships with customers and those strong connections often become excited and honest conversations.
“People are passionate about their hobbies, the comics, the toys and all that. They’ll tell you all about the websites they go to and shop at, so you’re aware. Even the people that shop with us today – they’re all shopping online as well,” Kocur says.
“Getting an ecommerce website set up was always in the back of our brains,” says Amazing Stories Media Expert Jody Cason. She explains that the team always said, “‘one of these days we need to get off our butts and do this’ but it never happened … and then it HAD to happen.”
Survival: The one true mission
On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Forced the local retailer to close the doors.
“Basically it was panic from then on, and wondering, how do we survive? How are we going to keep our revenue going if we can’t have our doors open?” Kocur says.
“You would hustle for every single sale and then at the end of the day you had only completed 10 transactions and were completely exhausted,” Cason says.
Like the many villains featured throughout the pages of their comics, COVID-19 wreaked havoc. Revenues were torched and a dead stop was put on shipments of their most popular inventory. Amazing Stories needed a way to showcase its offerings online and make it available to customers quickly before the pandemic nemesis sank the battleship for good.
Turning to the trusted local expert
Saddled with the challenge of trying to figure out how to launch an online store and no idea where to begin, Jeff turned to a Vendasta partner and one of the top digital marketing experts in their area for answers.
“We got a local agency to help us out and basically they held our hand and showed us everything. There was a lot to do – from entering inventory, to social media,” Kocur says.
The agency worked closely with Jeff and his team to identify areas that needed to be addressed immediately to get Amazing Stories selling online. Kicking off the process, the agency conducted an in-depth review and analysis of the business’s digital footprint, using Snapshot Report, Vendasta’s award-winning automated sales intelligence tool.
- Give customers the ability to shop and complete transactions securely online
- Arm staff with the tools to track and fulfill online orders
- Control the accuracy and location of the where the business is listed online
- View and respond to customer reviews coming in from multiple sources
- Track and assess the success of all new ecommerce and digital marketing efforts
“It’s very possible as a small business to compete against the big box stores. If you have the right marriage of technology and expertise, then the sky’s the limit.”
OWNER, AMAZING STORIES
Platform products deployed
The marketing agency then deployed an ecommerce solution stack for Amazing Stories, which included:
Website | Pro
With simple Woocommerce/ WordPress integration, an online store was live and ready to be filled with inventory within two days.
Made it possible to appear in local online search, and maintain correct and accurate business information such as hours of operation, location and up-to-date website information on Google and other key online sources.
Automatic notifications and scheduled reports supported efforts to increase social media engagement and drive product page traffic.
Helped to take control of Amazing Stories’ online reputation to generate more reviews, show up where customers searched, and gather more insights about customers – helping to increase sales.
Business App provided a single-sign-on dashboard connecting all of the ecommerce and digital marketing solutions in a one-stop shop with proof of performance reporting.
Coaching sessions provided by the local agency expert helped Amazing Stories get off the ground, and through monthly check-ins to review how everything was performing, they were well on the way to success with a new revenue stream.
Holy inventory Batman!
With a brand new website up and ready to go, Kocur now faced the challenge of loading thousands of product inventory items on the website. Based on the advice of their agency they began by focusing on items they knew would sell quickly and continued to increase the number of items listed online each day. The ecommerce store also added a secure payments feature for pre-ordered items.
“We used to physically write down pre-order requests on paper and Jeff would make a significant investment to bring in new release products, never knowing what the true demand was going to be,” Cason says. “Having the website for pre-orders has changed how we order inventory. We know exactly what to get and what the actual demand is going to be. That’s huge for us.”
Online sales save the day
“There are days when we come to work and there are a whole bunch of sold items we have to pull from shelves and prepare for pickup or shipping. It is keeping our staff very busy. We’re actually going to be hiring another person to start doing orders,” Kocur says.
In less than a year Amazing Stories managed to gross more than $135,000 in online sales revenue.
“That $135,000 brings us up to about 15 percent of our total sales, which is amazing. I mean we’ve gone from zero to this,” Kocur says.
In addition to local customers who shop in the online store, the ecommerce site has brought national attention to Jeff’s labor of love. More than 250 new customers from outside the local Saskatoon area now shop online at Amazing Stories.
“We still sell into our local market and people take advantage of the pickup or delivery for local buyers, but now we are selling pretty much coast-to-coast.”
Amazing Stories Before and After Ecommerce Adoption
|Before ecommerce||After Ecommerce|
|? Trickling revenue stream with mandatory store closure||✅ 135k+ in online revenue in less than a year|
|? Limited customer base of local in-person shoppers||✅ 250+ new customers from outside of the local area|
|? Some online sales happening on eBay to liquidate older stock||✅ 15% of total sales revenue now happening online through Website Pro|
|? Manual posting for various social media sites||✅ Social Marketing offers the ability to post on multiple platforms in one simple step|
|? Paper and pen tracking for pre-orders||✅ Secure payment and digital tracking of all pre-orders|
|? Manual updates on each individual listings site required for contact info and store hour changes||✅ Ability to change business info quickly across the board from one place with Listings Management|
|? Monitoring and responding to reviews piecemeal on various platforms||✅ Easily track and respond to reviews with Reputation Management|
The next chapter
As Amazing Stories prepares for a busy year, they’re currently working with their trusted local expert to add more digital solutions, including: Boostability SEO, Google Workspace, Constant Contact and Vendasta’s Marketing Services.
Amazing Stories has a clear business strategy to guide them through this next phase of ecommerce on the Vendasta platform. They believe ecommerce sales will continue to climb.
“It’s very possible as a small business to compete against the big box stores. If you have the right marriage of technology and expertise I believe you can compete,” Kocur says.