#111: How To Sell Comics Online
In this episode, I talk with Brian Garside, CEO of managecomics.com, about how comic shops can get their products online quickly, while also managing their ordering process for comics and other comic related products.
This episode is sponsored by Fluorescent, a Canadian-owned design agency who have just launched their newest, boldest Shopify theme ever. Learn more at fluorescent.co.
On the Show Today You’ll Learn:
- What you need to know about opening an online comic store
- Why configuring a Shopify comic store looks easy, but doing it wrong can be costly
- How to manage thousands of comics in Shopify
- How to manage comic order processes and subscriptions
- And more
Links & Resources
Shopify App store: https://apps.shopify.com/manage-comics-subscriptions
About Our Podcast Guest: Brian Garside
Brian Garside is a Canadian product developer who has been working on comic subscription software since 2005. His platform Manage Comics at ManageComics.com allows comic shops to quickly get their products online to a Shopify website, allowing them to create hybrid sales experiences that increase revenue and simplify ordering.
The Manage Comics platform is used by more than 250 stores worldwide with shops in Canada, the USA, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
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Claus Lauter: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the eCommerce coffee break. As you know, Shopify has a broad range of apps of opportunities that you can use to sell your products. And there's a broad range of products that people sell on Shopify. Now, today, I wanna. Talk about with an expert about something very special about comic subscription.
So selling comics on the interweb is something new. I have absolutely no background in that, and I wanna learn more about this. So today on the show is Brian Garside. He is a Canadian product developer who has been working on comic subscription software since 2005. And. His platform managed email@example.com allows comic shops to quickly get their products online to a Shopify website, allowing them to create hybrid sales experience that increase revenue in simplifying the ordering process.
The managed comic platform is used in more than 250 stores worldwide with shops in Canada, United States, Australia, and the UK. So let's talk about comics. Hi, Brian, how are you today? Great. How are you? I'm very well, tell me a little bit, how, what did you get you into comics and into
Brian Garside: eCommerce? For sure.
That's an awesome question. , back in the pre-internet ages, 1989, I got my first start at a comic shop and even back then, It was such a manual kind of , pen and paper process that I had taken an antique version of access database and built a little database so that we could manage our subscribers.
, fast forward, I went to school for television and radio production, and then, , I ended up falling into the internet in 1996 did right at the beginning of it, , in about 2005, I decided I wanted to open my own online store, because.
I had moved just outside of Toronto, Ontario. There were no comic stores near me. And, , I had ordered some stuff from the United States and I got a $65 duty charge for $45 worth of comics. And I kinda lost my head. So yeah, I opened an online comic store as any human being would.
, and then. I sold that to my business partner, but I stayed on and did marketing for 'em. And then in 2015, when I quit my job, , managed comics was the side thing that I built for. , my regular job was doing. Regular internet marketing , and website building and stuff like that.
, fast forward to the pandemic in 2020, and basically the entire industry changed overnight. , we went from one primary distributor to three, which meant that the ordering process became infinitely more complicated. were no comics for full three months for the first time in the history of comics between March and, , June.
2020, there were no comics shipped at all. , so the whole industry changed overnight and we honestly didn't think that the industry would even exist in, , 12 months. So I kept on talking to stores and I found a bunch of things. One of the things was, , in the beginning of the pandemic, They couldn't have people into their stores.
So they had to quickly get online. So we started looking at Shopify and I was like, man, you can get a store up in like hours using Shopify. So let's get as many of these folks online as we can. And then we started talking about like our old product managed comics. Wasn't really compatible with Shopify and there was a big problem getting products into Shopify.
It takes forever. You have to, , write a description, write a, product listing. You're get in your cost of good sold your price, all the tags, the image like this stuff just takes time. So stores were taking 6, 7, 8 hours to get their weekly stuff. Every store gets between 103 hundred new SKUs every single week.
So we, , quickly created a solution so that they could do that. And then we revisited our old product managed comics and said, what if we turned it into a Shopify app? And the majority of it would act as kind of future, , proofing that where.
Your customers can order things that are coming out in the next three months. And then when the products actually come into the store, we can quickly get those online for you with all the metadata and everything, , create the customer orders, send out bills to customers for products that have arrived.
And then like that all happens , in a matter of. 10 minutes when you upload your inventory. It tells you everything that you have to set aside creates the rest of the products puts 'em online and it all just happens magical.
Claus Lauter: So tell me, I have no idea about how , a person looks like going shopping for comics.
what's the, , visitor expectation on the online Shopify comic store. Yeah. And how does the merchant meet these expectations?
Brian Garside: I would say the demographic is all the way from 1820, all the way up to. 80 year olds. , so the people and their expectations are very different.
When you have , the younger folks, they just expect that anything that the store has will be available online. So they want to be able to buy it online and pick it up in the store, which is, I would say, 80 to 90% of , the sales all occur in a physical store. The remaining 10% are entirely online.
Digital transactions. Comics are still a very tactile thing. You wanna see it? now the second half of , that demographic is folks, , older than me. I'm 50. So people older than that tend to just exclusively come into the store.
So they don't so much care about the online thing, but what they do want to know is. As a store owner, I wanna make sure that my inventory synced up. So if something sells online, it's synced, , in the store between Shopify and the Shopify point of sale, , you have that sync going on.
people that come in don't really want to manage , their subscription list. I've been getting Batman. Since I was, an 18 year old. So as long as a Batman comic comes out, I expect there to be one set aside.
, those folks may say, yeah, and add this, this and this to my list. And they don't want actually, , grab their phone or go on their desktop and do it themselves, which every single customer for every one of our stores has the ability to go onto the store's website and update , their subscription pull list or say that, something I read about is coming out in a couple weeks.
I'd like to get a copy of it. They can reserve all that, right. From , the comfort of their own,
Claus Lauter: okay. So I understand that a lot of these customers have not only just one subscription, but there might have multiple subscription for different coming, right?
Brian Garside: Yeah. They could have, dozens of subscriptions.
And so part of what the system does is it actually lets them know what is physically set aside for them in the store every week. So you're not making needless trips to the store to find out that there's nothing set aside for you. , and conversely. You know that there's, five things set aside for you.
So you're gonna want to get in there and get those paid for and pick 'em up and read them
Claus Lauter: you said these, , merchants have like thousands and thousands of comics and permanently updating. Some of them probably also have brick and mortar stores, I reckon. I'm not sure most
Brian Garside: of them. Yeah.
Yeah. I'd say like 95% of the stores have brick and mortar location.
Claus Lauter: Okay. So it's the majority. So how does your system help them to make their life easier?
Brian Garside: Yeah, so the, biggest thing is, like I said, every week they get, three to seven invoices saying all the products that we're in, , it used to be, we would always get all of our product shipments on Tuesdays.
Now you can get a product shipment, literally every single day of the week. So every time that an invoice comes in for products, they can upload that invoice into our system and our system. Says, this is what you should have gotten in this, , shipment. Can you confirm that all these quantities are correct?
That there's no damages or anything, and then it takes the quantity and it allocates, whatever's held reserved for subscribers and then puts all the rest of them directly on the site available for sale. and then that of course syncs up with the point of sale. And now when a customer comes up to the, cash register, , they just scan the, barcode in and then grab, , , the copy. What's interesting too, is that even those shipments come in multiple times a week, there's kind of standard street date things where, , most comics can only be sold, have to be held until the Tuesday or the Wednesday of their release date
, so you may get something in on Thursday physically, but you actually can't sell it till. Or until Tuesday, I should say of the next week. So one of the things managed comics does is it will put a, do not sell until date on products. So you can actually have things that don't appear on your site or even in your POS until a specific date.
Claus Lauter: So now selling comics over Shopify, you might selling to more than one country, as I say, at least you have clients using your app in different countries. So would that also be possible in multilanguage multicurrency or how does that work with
Brian Garside: sellers? We haven't really delved too much into multilanguage. , in terms of currency because I'm Canadian, , we have a different currency exchange rate than the United States. our invoices get invoice to us in us dollars, but then we convert all that money into Canadian. So we actually have a built in currency converter cuz your invoice will actually say your exchange rate that week.
For some of our UK partners in specifically great Britain, we're going to be working on kind of a pricing tier because they actually have a $3 American comic is three pounds, 20 fives so we're gonna be working on like a, tiered pricing matrix, , for those guys and then Australia.
Their taxes are all built into the price. So we'll have to figure out a way to merge that with a pricing matrix as well for now, everybody uses that currency exchange converter and it is more or less accurate for them.
Claus Lauter: When it comes to the theme, works every Shopify theme.
Brian Garside: Yeah. So we have an install video that shows that in eight minutes, you can get set up with literally any Shopify. , it , just automatically detects your theme, , creates a new page. And then, , the only thing you have to do is add it to your navigation, but everything else gets created automatically.
Claus Lauter: Okay. What happens if somebody does not know your app yet has built painstakingly a Shopify store with all these queues in there and now he wants to move from whatever he has built or she has built into your app. Is that kind of, an import or how does that work?
Brian Garside: That is one of the problems we've found because the way Shopify works is, , it builds, the unique identifier is the handle and the handle is something that Shopify, , creates for the product. What we are going to do probably later this fall is when you first install managed comics, there'll be an option for you to crawl all your product.
Then, if we can look at all the barcodes, cuz barcodes are the one thing that are universal. , if we can look at all the barcodes and as long as your barcodes have been updated on your side, we have a database of over 400,000 barcodes in our system. So we can actually look and say, okay, has this product ever been created before?
Otherwise, what happens right now is we'll actually just create a second version of that product,
Claus Lauter: okay. So what would you give as a advice, as a gold nugget to someone who wants to start a comic store or just has it started?
What should be their focus on to get as many subscribers as possible?
Brian Garside: That's the end goal. Yeah, that's a great question. So I think it's traditional internet marketing, , rules in general. Like you should be working on building a customer data. If you've got a customer database, then you start to market to that customer database about , your subscription, , service.
And the thing about a subscription service is that it's guaranteed recurring revenue because Batman is going to come out every two weeks for the rest of my life. you have people who are passionate about that stuff. missing a copy of Batman would be something that would upset me because I have a unbroken run of Batman from when I was.
13 years old, people that are passionate about this stuff it just makes it easier for me to collect. I'm not going to five different stores every week to figure out whether to grab those copies that I missed at one store. , I have a recurring place.
A lot of people say that comic stores are the modern day. There were people hang out , and talk to the people behind the counter, better than, some of your own family it's a great little industry and if folks have already got a comic store and don't have a pull and hold system or a subscription system, they definitely are missing out on a, big piece of the revenue.
Claus Lauter: sounds great. So how long does it take to implement the app? If you're running your comic store and you wanna go
Brian Garside: online? So we've got a video. If you already have a Shopify store, it takes eight minutes from the time that you, , go to the app store to the time that you're adding your first customer and adding subscriptions for them.
So, yeah, eight minutes is, , seven minutes and 25 seconds to be exact. It's pretty simple. It's very step by step and straightforward, and we have some really, really robust help, including videos for all the different workflows that you may have to do.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Now, obviously it's not for free.
So what's your
Brian Garside: pricing structure? Yeah, so we charge $80 a month. , and that provides all of the data. There's over 3000 new products being added every month. , and then we're constantly updating the data as well because those 3000 products, hundred of them, , have cover updates or solicitation updates that we manually update, , as well as part of our process.
Claus Lauter: Okay. So where can people find more about manage comics.com?
Brian Garside: Yeah. Manage comics.com is the best place to go. , it has all kinds of information about us. We're also available on the Shopify app store. So if you search, manage comics on Shopify, , will be the first thing that shows up there. Okay.
Claus Lauter: So famous last words. Would you recommend anyone going into this market? Is that something that has future what's your take on
Brian Garside: that, , into the comics market? , absolutely. It's funny cuz I don't know if you can see behind me, but I got , a whole ton of comic books. , I've been as part of the illness of being a comic collector.
I've been acquiring hard covers and graphic novels for the last couple years. Just whenever I see 'em on sale, I'll buy a bunch. I'm actually in the process of starting up my own store so what I recommend I'm doing it, so I probably should, , and I'm probably going to buy an existing store and, , build from there.
There's a ton of potential in this industry. , it's been around for 80 years. It's a very unique and very, , interesting industry for sure. So yeah I would recommend it if you've got a love of comics and you have to have a love of it.
It's a pretty cool place to be.
Claus Lauter: Okay. There's the proof in the pudding. I think everyone who watches Marvel movies or DC movies, , is potentially also a customer for comics. Absolutely. Yeah, for sure. Cool. Brian, thanks so much for your time. I think that was very insightful specifically for me.
I've never heard about this kind of niche and I found it very interesting and thanks again for your time.
Brian Garside: Thank you, sir. Bye way. Bye.
Today's Episode Sponsor
Today's podcast sponsors are Fluorescent, a Canadian-owned design agency who have just launched their newest, boldest Shopify theme ever. Infinitely flexible and loaded with powerful features, Stiletto offers endless possibilities to take your luxury brand to the next level. It comes packed with highly-customizable sections and built-in app functionality to create a compelling product discovery experience that eliminates friction and boosts conversions. Learn more at fluorescent.co today.
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