IQ Toys has been trading online since 1996, making it one of the earliest New Zealand retail websites. The site stocks a range of toys educational, developmental and fun toys.
The website uses vshop online retail software developed in New Zealand by Webdrive. Webdrive hosts the site, and provides design and maintenance services other than updating the product database, a task performed by IQ Toys director Shane Loomb.
"I initially did the site design myself using Microsoft FrontPage but soon realised that if I wanted a smooth, professional looking site I would need to contract this aspect out," says Loomb.
"Webdrive have been instrumental in the site design and development."
Christmas is definitely the most important season for IQ Toys. Loomb says 40-50% of the year's business is done over November and December.
"As the leading online toy store in New Zealand we will be one of the most visited NZ sites in Nov-Dec," says Loomb.
The Christmas period means IQ Toys expands its staff numbers, hiring five extra people for the holiday, bringing the compliment up to eight. Web services company Webdrive will have staff on 24 hour call. In case any outage can't be resolved in a few hours, there is a contingency plan to migrate the entire site to a backup DNS server.
Registering with search engines is a minor but necessary part of the marketing plan. More successful has been a recent button ad placed with i4free, giving away $400 worth of gift vouchers. Loomb says this promotion worked very well in building awareness of the site.
IQ Toys also produces a 32-page colour catalogue, which is distributed nationwide. The catalogue acts as a showcase of products, featuring the 100 most popular toys for sale on the website. It has a mail-order form, but Loomb expects that it will be a strong pull to the site for consumers with computers.
"We also have a top 10 toys selection which is extremely popular and is based on the current sales," says Loomb. "Toys that are in this category also get a sales boost by being in the Top 10 which means they can sometimes be hard for other toys to displace."
Trading online involves the same commitment as having a bricks and mortar store. Loomb's advice to online retailers betokens a commonsense approach that is a hybrid between knowing your business and putting in the hard yards.
"Online retail is no different to any other business," says Loomb.
"You have to understand and be passionate about the dynamics of the business or industry you are in. You also have to be prepared to work very hard towards your goals. Be realistic about your goals and time-frames. Think about what it is that will make customers want to shop with you. Is it convenience, product selection etc? Structure your site accordingly. Don't forget that like any business it takes lots of hard work."