TCGplayer Go for Global Growth

by Guf

The story of TCGplayer is an inspirational one. They started out as a tiny software startup and have now become a massive player in the industry. The designers spotted a gap in the sector; an opportunity to create a platform that would bring buyers and sellers together on one marketplace. Over a decade later they are still the only effective magic singles marketplace in North America  and have added services such as bulk price editing, card scanning and the largest singles fulfilment centre in the world.

It is this fulfilment service, TCGplayer Direct, that has positioned TCGplayer for growth. By dealing directly with the player, TCGplayer has created confidence in the mind of the consumer. Players know that TCGplayer are checking cards as they ship them and they know that when TCGplayer ships things they arrive, authenticated and in the listed condition. By creating this confidence in the marketplace, retailers have benefited from greater access to customers and this has led to a massive reduction in missing packages.

By reducing fraudulent mail reports TCG has reduced retailer’s expenses. This is complemented by efforts to look after all levels of customer support, taking another burden away from the shoulders of retailers. “Liquidity” says Head of Product Development, John McDonald. “Is our goal when dealing with retailers”. It is fair to say that TCGplayers model of commission only fees does support this statement. Without sellers, TCGplayer receives no revenue. This has made TCGplayer committed to the success of retailers and they are ambitious for more sellers.

Having dominated the USA, TCGplayer have eyes to expand globally. John was able to tease details of an expansion into Australia and, in the longer term, Canada. “It is funny to tell you that Australia is significantly easier. Canada has complications around import/export restrictions and customs issues. Even physically moving goods across the border presents challenges,” explained John.

Despite global aspirations, TCGplayer are firmly focused on what they do best; bringing buyers and sellers together in one place. They are planning integrations with shopify and square. “We listened to retailers when they said they loved their existing POS. We decided to de-prioritize such software services and let our partners develop their own integrations via our open API,” John explained.

By focusing on their core business of customer service, marketplace and fulfilment, TCGplayer have been able to focus on improving their own inventory management efficiencies. John was able to share some of the details of their fulfilment centre’s singles workflow and it does sound impressive. While unable to get too specific, he described a hybrid style system where cards are organised according to the frequency of being purchased together. I strongly suspect that they are employing some sort of machine learning to constantly tweak their locations and reduce the need for sorting. “We still sort our singles,” John responded. “With technology like robots for sorting, our focus internally has been on logical storage locations to reduce picking time. Sets and alphabetically just does not scale to the size we need.”

By dominating the marketplace, taking over customer service and handling singles delivery, TCGplayer believes they have preserved the uniqueness of each individual game store. One can argue that this has allowed retailers space to innovate. No one could disagree that TCGplayer has enabled many retailers to make quite a lot of money.

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