Alex Davis reviews 2017 and details his 2018 New Years Resolutions
Happy New Year 2018 guys!
Is it really that time of the year already? Time to reflect on 2017. At the beginning of the year, I had 6 New Years Resolutions. Let’s see how things went:
2017 Resolution #1: The Website
The resolution: To make it more user-friendly, more interactive, more Flexipay plans and more engaging with dashes of razzle dazzle! Become more than the sum of its parts.
What happened: More Flexipay plans! For the first time ever, we started offering 12 month plans. We also introduced Flexipay for in-stock items which saw a lot of items sell out. It was something that you guys had requested and we saw a lot of collectors taking advantage of these plans!
More engaging! A new addition to our F4F Family this year is Miguel Galvez – designed with the task of creating engaging blog content. He only started in November but already it's had a great impact on our site – definitely more engaging.
More user-friendly... well, sort of. There are definitely some improvements here such as points auto increasing depending on loyalty levels, but we are still not where we need to be. I want to see better payment tracking and loyalty level leveling up clarity. I want to see gift cards.
Razzle Dazzle? Nothing here – didn't manage to do this.
And can we talk Validation Tuesdays? Born out of necessity for Bowser's blind preorder – we now have a new method of purchasing which allows for collectors to lock down their numbers in a way that stops website crashes. We had a few of those - Majora's Mask and Crash Bandicoot in particular. Some say that the new system is clunky - but I think the pros outweigh the cons.
Rating: 4/5 We did a lot right – very happy how things went this year.
2017 Resolution #2: The F4F Community
The resolution: To blur the lines between company and family and to make sure fans can discover us and enjoy the F4F Community.
What happened: At the beginning of 2017, the First 4 Figures Official Collectors Cub on Facebook was 15,000 members strong. By the end of 2017, the count is over 36,000. The raw increase in numbers has taken me by surprise. It's such an honor to see the community build up like that. The community has begun to take on a life of its own. We've introduced Feeding Frenzies this year as well maintaining weekly days such as Temptation Thursdays, Friday Q and A and F4Fundays. Also notable was how the F4F Community started going outside the club to rally fans of certain properties to come into the club and vote on their favorite Temptation Thursdays.
However, as the community numbers grow, it's certainly been difficult to keep things fresh. I think we've done a great job doing that - as fortunately, we release a lot of product throughout the year. But yes, it's certainly been tough to always provide enough engaging content.
Huge shoutout to the Admins in the Collector's Club who have been instrumental in keeping the direction and focus in check. Couldn't have done it without you - thank you!
In addition to the club, this year, Chockles and I's weekly stream has been great - a lot of fun! Here, the lines between family and company are really blurred. Just hanging out together on the stream has been a highlight! Question is - will anyone ever take Who Dat? Who Dat? to 8,000 F4F Reward Points?
Rating: 4/5 The community growth has been stunning - the effort to maintain it has not been problem free, but overall, very proud!
2017 Resolution #3: More License Announcements
The resolution: I said that there were 5 unannounced licenses and that we would reveal more in 2017.
What happened: 2017 brought forth a ton of license announcements! Once the club hit 20,000 members, we announced a partnership with Activision - Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot! When the club hit 25,000 members, we extended our licenses with Konami and SEGA with the announcements of Metal Gear Solid and Bayonetta respectively. Expanded our Dark Souls commitment with the inclusion of Dark Souls 2 and 3. When the club hit 35,000 members, we announced our Microsoft partnership for two classic Rare icons - Banjo-Kazooie and Conker the Squirrel.
Rating: 8/5 See what I did there? But yes, very happy to have been able to announce those licenses! Very honored!
2017 Resolution #4: Constant development of current lines
What happened: We've been working on so many different products for so many different lines. There are always over 100 projects going on at any given time. We had Chris join the team as a full-time designer along with working with over 10 different artists, constantly designing and developing. It's certainly been challenging but we're definitely working well in this department.
Rating: 4/5 Work, work, and more work!
2017 Resolution #5: Production
The resolution: Improve efficiency from pre-orders to delivery.
What happened: Well, this one fell short. Delays because of inefficiencies that could have been avoided. It became clear to me that this was not improving the way I wanted and it's been a constant focus for me to see what tweaks we can do to improve the production flow. I was finding that we were launching a pre-order once every 3 weeks but the back end was not being able to catch up and the gap between the two kept constantly growing. I hired some more people in our China team towards the second half of the year and that has moved things back in the right direction, but it's clear there is more work to do.
Rating: 2/5 This one needs a lot more TLC in 2018.
2017 Resolution #6: Fan Feedback
The resolution: Continue to put fan feedback at the top.
What happened: 2017 saw a ton of fan feedback on every project we do. With the growth of the club, the many individual voices and feedback would likewise grow in proportion. Particular stand out was the feedback on Metal Gear Solid's Solid Snake which involved a lot of feedback on the sculpt and paints. Feedback also from Temptation Thursdays and other license polls have also influenced us in actively pursuing future licenses. I definitely feel that we've taken a lot of fan feedback and put it at the top. That's not been without challenges. From a personal point of view, I've had to grow a thick skin and learn to not take everything personally if it's negative feedback and also not rest on laurels if positive feedback. What I can assure you of though, is your feedback matters. We listen. To everyone.
Rating: 4.5/5 We may not always do what's the feedback requests, but we always listen.
2017 was an amazing year for F4F. It saw our team increase to 10 in the China team and 14 in the HK team. It was the first full year, certainly for the majority of the HK team to work together and improve efficiency. More firepower added to the China team - to help deal with production and a safe way that doesn't compromise quality. We expanded to an additional office.
For the first time ever, I've felt that we're beginning to get the word out there in large part through the efforts of the F4F Community and Collecting Community. We sponsored Collector-Verse and did interviews with Radd-Titan and Zelda Universe. There was an uptick in Youtube and press coverage and more awareness in FB communities. This culminated with the winning of Toys TV's 2017 "Most Favorite Toys Company" Award - an honor that only came about because of the F4F Community. Thank you for that!
We've also been spreading the F4F word through the delivery of 2 major PVC products, our The Legend of Zelda's Breath of the Wild Link PVC statue and Crash Bandicoot's Crash PVC statue into mass markets. This was our first foray into PVCs and I think it's a great addition to the F4F Lineup.
We went to our first ever Comic-Con when we went to New York Comic Con - an important experience for us that didn't quite go the way we had hoped but was certainly something that we will learn from.
2017 was excellent. I'd like to thank my team so much for their hard work throughout the year - couldn't have done it without you!
- Website - I want it to be more mature - more razzle dazzle
- F4F Community - keep the engagement and grow the members
- Production efficiency - keep that going and increase the speed
- More PVC projects. I want to see at least 4-5 in 2018 go into the marketplace
- Add a third pillar to the F4F lineup - plush!
And so that's it for 2017 - I wanted to say that I'm so grateful to the fans for your support. It's been such an honor! See you in a year!
Let us know how your 2017 F4F was in the comments below! Would love to hear them!
F4F is Love. F4F is Life.
Alex Davis, First 4 Figures.