Alex Davis reviews 2018 and details his resolutions for 2019
Happy 2019, my beautiful F4Fam!
I feel that 2018 has gone by so quickly that I’m a little bit scared to review my 2018 resolutions to see how we fared – but review I must! So let’s have a look at how we go on then, shall we?
2018 Resolution #1: The Website
The resolution: Website – I want it to be more mature, more razzle-dazzle
What happened: The website has made some great strides behind the scenes. We’ve welcomed a new member to the IT team, Man, who has been working hard alongside Andreas and Lorenzo. We’ve added a lot of new customer-friendly features that people are using. Some of the highlights include:
- You can now add a (up to) 3-month payment plan to any order (recently converted waitlist orders particularly benefit from that).
- You can defer payments up to 3 months
- Much faster conversions of waitlists
- The product named in on the order home screen (instead of having to click on an individual order). This was a fan favourite request!
- Reducing the cancellation fees of Flexipay plans from $20 per payment down to $5.
Validations also have now become a staple of 2018. Birthed in 2017, 2018 saw it become a mainstay with the majority of them being smooth. Over time, it has improved and I hope that we’ll find that they go perfectly every time.
However, it’s not all good. There were some things that were missed or was a step backward. We’ve restricted the ability to have multiple orders in a basket at checkout. We also missed the sale of gift cards in time for the holiday, which was a huge missed opportunity.
Also, the resolution called for more razzle-dazzle. So whilst we made the website more mature in terms of customer features, that all important new coat of paint never happened in 2018. It’s a shame that it was missed.
Rating: 4/5 Solid year. The website is undoubtedly better than last year. Looking forward to seeing how far it can go in 2019!
2018 Resolution #2: F4F Community
The resolution: Keep the engagement and grow the members
What happened: The First 4 Figures Official Collectors Club on Facebook has been our main home for three years now. I had no idea, back when I started it in January 2016, that it would grow into this amazing community! At the beginning of 2018, there were 36,000 members. At the end of 2018, it’s now 57,000+. Incredible achievement! So growing the numbers has been amazingly successful, but what about engagement?
That’s been an interesting one. We engage the community by providing lots of sneak peeks, unboxings, the introduction of King of the Ring, factory production videos, competitions, polls, etc. People also show off their latest F4F piece or ask help from the community or rally around their favourite licenses. Fundays were a thing right at the end of 2017 so we’ve now gone through a whole year of Funday which has seen its own evolution.
It was tough for the first half of the year. We really felt the impact of having shown so many things at 2017’s New York Comic Con, meaning we didn’t have much content to keep the community engaged. The second half of the year started seeing new content, which was great.
In October, Peggy (or is it Cheggy) joined Chockles for marketing duties to have even more official F4F involvement in the Club. This has allowed Chockles to concentrate on working with our amazing licensors to run giveaways and kicked things off with the Dark Souls Remastered giveaway spree. Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, and Dark Souls Trilogy giveaways soon followed and I know he’s working on even more stuff behind the scenes! The more critical mass the Club has, the more Chockles can work his magic.
The engagement though, was not just for the OCC on Facebook. We saw good growth numbers on our Instagram and YouTube channels as well. Our recent videos have improved a lot since Ting joined the team, and it’s great that they get the views that they deserve.
For me, the engagement was there in 2018. I feel that I was definitely just as active in 2018 as I was in 2016 and 2017, despite a busier workload. I’ve also, perhaps, not been as accommodating as I have been in the past. I’ve always tried my best to please everyone, but I felt that this year, I stopped trying as hard. The reality is, you can't please everyone and it’s ok. There were times when there were pockets of negativity in the Club. They were removed, or I personally blocked them (because life’s too short) and it’s amazing how the tone is so much better as a result. It’s been a very interesting evolution of the Club – from it’s origins and intimacy of a sub 5,000 Club to the 57,000+ it is now. The tone though is still overwhelmingly positive. People are helpful, polite, and it’s a place to hang out daily. Not many groups with so many members can say the same.
And that tone is the result of the hard working admins behind the scenes. Much love to my admins! The Club is such an awesome place thanks to your efforts. Much thanks, guys!
Friday Q&A hit a milestone this year. The last Q&A was the magical #100! Never would have thought that Chocks and I were going to do it for so long, but we did! Thanks, Chocks for being beside me through every single Q&A and more importantly, to help me DE-NY all Who Dat 8,000 F4F Reward Points Challengers!
Rating: 5/5 The community is bigger and better than ever – a fantastic 2018!
2018 Resolution #3: Production Efficiency
The resolution: Keep that going and increase the speed
What happened: The year, in production terms, has been challenging. There are many factors that caused challenges along the way and I’ve learned some expensive lessons in 2018. Sif-gate and Kirby-gate have highlighted that you have to always be on the ball, all the time, that it’s not ok for things to leave the factory looking perfect and think that that’s that. Latent defects are something that has haunted me in 2018, things that you can't tell or spot when it leaves the factory. Now that scares me because it’s so hard to spot. How do you spot the invisible thing? Well, we’ve done a few things.
We bought a transit machine to simulate how a product will be shipped on a boat. We test it by running the machine on all six sides of the box to see if there are any breakages or paint rubs. We also now do aging heat tests to see whether there is enough structural support in the piece to avoid leaning in the future. Why? Because these were issues that we encountered on a big enough scale to be very painful.
That now leads to us following a new policy that ships out orders from our Asia warehouse first and await feedback before shipping out the rest of the world’s products. It’s a great decision which has already helped. So what does that highlight? It again highlights that we are prone to making simple yet sometimes costly mistakes. No doubt in my mind, there is not enough efficiency in the production process, and it is something that I need to look at closely in 2019. To have processes in place that catches the problems before it becomes a problem.
On a positive note, we’ve certainly shipped out more product this year than we did last year. The speed has increased, so I’m pleased with that. But again, it could have been better. Things can be improved. I need to see things moving like clockwork, that nothing falls through the cracks. It won't be easy to achieve, but it will be a focus of mine in 2019.
Rating: 3/5 Better than last year – let’s look to build on this next year.
2018 Resolution #4: More PVC Projects
The resolution: I want to see at least 4-5 PVC projects go into the marketplace
What happened: F4F PVC Nation is coming…just not quickly enough. PVCs are going to be a very important part of our business moving forward. I’m focusing a lot of energy into these lines. We debut and delivered Artorias the Abysswalker SD and Solaire of Astora SD and put Spyro Reignited PVC into pre-order. We showed prototypes of Amaterasu, Solid Snake SD, and Dragon Slayer Ornstein SD. However, the original goal was to have 4-5 projects go into the marketplace. On reflection, that might have been a bit too ambitious. Four-5 up for pre-order would have been more manageable. However, on both counts, neither were achieved. We delivered two and had one up for preorder. That's not good enough.
However, one thing is clear. F4F PVC Nation is here to stay. The resin industry in 2018 has proven more and more crowded, more so than ever before. There is a need for us to diversify by using the more affordable PVCs as marketing to get the F4F brand out there. Then those that discover us through the PVCs, can consider picking up resins in the future. If there is no expansion to the customer base, it would be a huge problem for us to rely on the current customers for resins. Resin's prices are going up, there’s more on offer, space is a concern, and we’re increasing our own resin piece offerings. Those that used to be able to buy every single piece we made are now having to pick and choose. That will be a problem if we don’t do something about it.
That’s why F4F PVC Nation is so important for us. So whilst we fell short of our 2018 goals of PVC projects, the work behind the scenes in 2018 will showcase a lot of PVC pieces coming into 2019 and 2020.
Rating: 2/5 Didn’t deliver as much as hoped.
2018 Resolution #5: Add a third pillar to the F4F line
The resolution: Add plush to the F4F offerings
What happened: Well, this was an almighty fail. This did not happen, and I’m not pleased with myself. I need to tackle this into next year.
Rating: 0/5 Embarrassing
2018 was a great year for F4F. We have had a lot of change happen internally. Movement of staff, new staff members – a bigger team both in Hong Kong, China, and overseas. We put more pre-orders up than ever before and seen a significant uptick in community engagement. We just got a new studio to raise our production values. The team is working well together.
Added the F4F Partnerships concept with GNF Toyz and Torch Torch.
We were disheartened by our experience at New York Comic Con in 2017 and thought that we probably wouldn’t do any convention. But, the lessons of 2017 NYCC would have gone to waste if we didn’t try it at least one more time in 2018. So we did Ani-com in Hong Kong. Then went to Germany for GamesCom. Then had a booth at MCM London. So 2018 conventions were a highlight for me – something I’m surprised about because I started the year with quite a negative impression of conventions.
We announced 2 amazing licenses right before the end of 2018 – Yu-Gi-Oh! and My Hero Academia. We’re looking forward to showing what we’ve been cooking!
So there you have it – 2018 is now wrapped up in the history books. Thanks for being so good to us! Thank you to my amazing team for their hard work.
- Website – razzle-dazzle, please! More features!
- F4F Community – keep growing!
- Production Efficiency – stop things falling through the cracks!
- PVC Nation – put at least six things up for preorder in 2019 and deliver five
- Attend more conventions – I want to see at least 4 conventions in 2019
- Add a third and possibly at fourth pillar – F4F Core and F4F Plush!
- Expansion of our F4F Partnerships
That’s all folks! Thank you for all your support – can't do it without you! Such an honour and I’m motivated every day.
Let me know how was your 2018 F4F Experience! I would love to hear!
F4F is Love. F4F if Life.
Alex Davis, First 4 Figures