Analysis: 2020 Was a Banner Year for Board & Card Games. What Will 2021 Hold?

Pattern Data Science

November 12, 2021

The holidays are upon us, which means that, for a lot of people, board game season is really ramping up. Shorter days, colder weather, and more time with family makes for a perfect time to break out an old favorite game, or to stock up on new games to give away as gifts.

With gametime on our minds, we wanted to dig into our data to learn more about the state of board games across the country. Did all the extra time spent at home during the height of the pandemic drive big sales for board games? If so, which games got the biggest pandemic bump? How big is the holiday shopping season? And which games have been the most (and least) popular over the past couple years?

We dove deep into our data to answer these questions and more.

Which board and card games have been the most popular so far this year?

There are countless types of games out there. From highly complex and intricate, to simple and broad, there’s certainly a game out there for you and your tastes. But which ones have been the hottest sellers this year?

Check and mate. When it comes to popular games, there’s no unseating the king, and chess has been far and away the most popular game this year.

The classic card game Uno, with its simple rules and low price point, wasn’t far behind in the #2 spot, however.

Another card game, the ever-popular Pokemon, was a strong number three, ahead of three standard board games: Clue, Risk, and Monopoly.

After a strong #7 spot for playing cards, we round out the top ten with Jenga, Dominos, and Settlers of Catan.

So there’s your leaderboard for the most popular games of 2021 so far. But what about last year? What kind of impact has the pandemic had on demand for board and card games?

What kind of impact did COVID-19 have on sales for board and card games?

Many of us have spent a lot of time at home since March of last year, so have board and card games seen demand skyrocket as a result? If so, which games were the ones that got the biggest quarantine boost?

Let’s start with a really broad look at monthly demand for all the board and card games in our analysis starting in 2019.

There’s absolutely no question that the first months of lockdowns and social distancing resulted in a huge surge in online demand for board and card games. March 2020 saw a 52% increase in demand vs the same month in 2019, while April experienced a 34% increase.

Demand then fell to just below 2019’s levels by June, but we saw a mostly stronger holiday shopping season last year as well.

2021 started the year with demand ahead of any previous year, but, as you’d expect, it failed to live up to last year’s huge springtime surge. October did see a slight increase in demand compared to last year, though, suggesting we might be in store for all-time high demands this holiday shopping season.

To put an even finer point on just how big the beginning of the pandemic was for demand for board and games, here’s a look at weekly demand since January 2020:

The first weeks of lockdowns saw online demand for board and card games surge to levels typically reserved for the height of the holiday shopping season.

Which board and card games got the biggest early pandemic boost?

Now that we’ve established how big March and April 2020 were for board and card games, we next wanted to see which ones were the most in-demand. To find out, we took demand for each game during those two months and compared it to demand during the same months in 2019.

Here were the top 15 biggest winners:

If you thought that a real-life pandemic would deter people from playing a board game called “Pandemic”—think again. The game, in which players work to discover cures to a deadly pandemic, saw a stunning 469% increase in demand in March and April last year compared to the same months in 2019.

The family-favorite game of Scattergories was next on the list, with an impressive 223% increase in demand. Other family-friendly games saw demand more than double, including Phase 10, Life, and Pictionary.

Those months were so big for board and card games that only a few in our analysis didn’t experience a year-over-year increase in demand: Sorry (-25%), Exploding Kittens (-19%), Azul (-19%), and Connect Four (-9%).

The real story, of course, is the success of Pandemic. Let’s take a closer look at monthly demand for that game:

There’s no doubting that the game enjoyed prolonged popularity throughout all of last year, with it receiving a substantial holiday season bump as well.

Here’s a weekly view, for an even closer look:

Demand for the game actually picked up in the earliest weeks of the pandemic, dipped slightly during the first week of shutdowns, then skyrocketed immediately after.

The popularity does appear to have been somewhat short lived, however, as 2021 has seen demand drop to 2019 levels for most of the year.

Which board and card games get the biggest holiday shopping season bump?

With the holiday shopping season approaching, we next wanted to see if there are games that get especially large bumps during the holiday shopping season last year. To avoid this figure being skewed by the early COVID surge, we decided to take average demand for November and December and compare it to average demand during the summer months (July through September).

Here’s what we found:

Last holiday shopping season, chess was the hottest item by far, seeing demand surge by 225% during the holidays compared to the summertime average. We have a theory as to what was driving chess’s shocking success, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Other big winners were Pictionary, Ticket to Ride, Trivial Pursuit, and Chutes and Ladders. Again, Pandemic experienced a significant holiday surge even despite it’s mega popularity during the spring.

The holidays were so big for board and card games that only two of them in our analysis failed to see demand increase during the holidays: Risk (-2%) and Uno (-3%).

Let’s take a closer look at chess, as something pretty interesting appeared to drive its demand to new heights.

Hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit drove a huge surge in holiday shopping demand for chess last year

That’s right, our analysis strongly suggests that The Queen’s Gambit, a hit Netflix series that premiered in October 2020, was why chess received a larger holiday shopping bump than any other game in our analysis.

Let’s start by examining monthly demand for chess since 2019:

As you can see, chess saw demand go up during the holidays in 2019, but to a much, much lesser degree than the incredible surge we saw in 2020.

To put it into perspective, demand in November and December 2019 were 36% and 79% higher than the summertime average that year. In 2020, November and December saw demand surge to a stunning 204% and 222% above the summertime average.

In fact, the show’s popularity bled into this year as well, with demand remaining quite high in January and February, and even outpacing the early pandemic bump we saw in March and April.

A look at weekly demand serves to bolster this hypothesis:

The Queen’s Gambit released on Netflix on October 13th, 2020, and by the week of October 25th, demand had increased by 114% compared to the week before the series came out. By the week of December 6th, demand for chess had surged to a whopping 301% over where it was before the series premiered.

While demand has evened out, it has remained consistently higher throughout 2021, and while we wouldn’t expect it to match the heights we saw last year, we expect the category to receive at least a moderate bump this holiday shopping season.

Which games appear to be on track for a strong 2021 holiday shopping season?

Lastly, we wanted to see if any of the games in our analysis were performing particularly well this year as we head into the holiday shopping season. To determine this we compared demand during September and October 2021 to the same months in 2020.

Here were the games that saw the biggest year-over-year increases in demand during those time frames:

Settlers of Catan appears to be particularly hot this year, at least heading into the holiday shopping season, with demand up 94% during the months heading into the holidays this year.

Hungry Hungry Hippos and Ticket to Ride were next on the list, with Connect Four and chess rounding out the top five.

Let’s take a closer look at Settlers of Catan:

Demand for the game surged in May and has remained high the rest of the year as we enter into the holiday shopping season. If we see a similar holiday shopping surge for the game this year as we have the previous two years, then many shoppers may find themselves having a hard time finding the game if they don’t act fast!

A lesson for brands

This year’s holiday shopping season is shaping up to be yet another big one for board and card games of all types. And considering the supply chain issues on the horizon, we wouldn’t be surprised to see all types of board games struggling to stay on the shelves.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

For example, a hit TV show might drive one of the world’s oldest games to new heights of popularity, or a worldwide pandemic might actually increase sales for a board game about a deadly disease. Or an already popular game like Settlers of Catan may simply be setting up for a surprise surge in demand.

Either way, we’ll be keeping a close eye on these trends and more in the coming weeks and months.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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Aug 4, 2022

How Disjointed Sellers Take Away Brand Control on Ecommerce Marketplaces

A top issue we see with brands struggling on ecommerce marketplaces is a loss of brand control due to disjointed sellers—those that aren't following your brand policies and guidelines when selling your products online. Disjointed sellers can be gray market, unauthorized, and rogue sellers, as well as 3P and other sellers that are noncompliant with your branding, pricing, and other forms of representation online.

It can be very easy for brands to lose control of their ecommerce strategy when they can’t get a handle on disjointed sellers. Typically, these brands are either stuck in a game of whack-a-mole or just ignoring the warning signs of bigger issues and hoping for the best. But, when disjointed selling isn't handled right, the consequences can be devastating to profitability. A loss of brand control doesn’t happen overnight, and the factors that contribute to it are long-standing. 

Erode Consumer Trust

Before the advent of ecommerce, brands favored a wide distribution. It was the easiest way to get products to as many distributors as possible. But wide distribution, when left unchecked, leads to leaky distribution—allowing your excess products to end up in the hands of unwanted sellers.

So brands that continue to operate with a wide distribution strategy are losing brand control and are damaging their brand equity and product performance. Why? You’re unable to monitor your products’ pricing, performance, or quality. You can’t dictate how you’re represented by each seller, creating an inconsistent and false representation of your brand to your new and existing consumers. These issues often lead to poor reviews and erode opportunities to build trust with future customers.

Wear Away Brand Equity

In today’s ecommerce landscape, marketplaces and digital platforms connect people and sellers to make online shopping simple and seamless. They also provide customers complete price transparency. Google, for instance, allows consumers to access any of your products on virtually every ecommerce channel and retail location and posts them side-by-side for you to comparison shop.

Now, everyone from your D2C distributors to large marketplace sellers, legitimate 3P sellers, and rogue and unauthorized sellers are on a level playing field—they’re all presented to the searching consumer, and that consumer has the purchase power.

Disjointed sellers have just as much power and authority to represent your brand as you do, without the same quality, pricing strategy, and customer focus as you.

Cause Competition and Price Matching Issues 

In most shopping scenarios, consumers will choose to purchase a product from whichever seller offers the lowest price. Marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart know this, and optimize their product selection based on all retail offers to serve consumers the lowest price for the same item.

This means that as one seller drops the price of your product, the next will follow, and then the next, etc. Everyone gains access to the product at or below MSRP. This opens the door for unauthorized sellers to purchase inventory during promotions or at discounted prices and then turn around and sell the same product slightly below competing sellers’ prices—for profit.  

As customers search for your product, they notice the cheaper price and purchase from the unauthorized seller, rather than paying the price you’ve established with your retail teams. Simultaneously, as Amazon monitors their product listing against other available channels, they notice they don’t have the lowest price. So Amazon, and other marketplaces, in service of the consumer, drop their price to match the lower price offered by an unauthorized seller. To stay competitive, your other channels follow suit. The cycle, also know as the profitability death spiral, continues to drive down the price of your product, grinding away your margins and profitability.

This doesn’t sound like much of a problem if your brand isn’t actively selling on ecommerce marketplaces, right? Unfortunately, it causes big issues for your brick-and-mortar sales, too. Large retail chains like Best Buy and Macy’s noticed this potential loss of sales from ecommerce and needed to defend and protect their profit. Retailers started telling brands that, in order to keep their products in-store (which accounts for 80% of most brands’ sales) they would need to lower their prices to match online prices. Which led to the concept of price matching. If a customer could prove the price of a product was lower somewhere else, Best Buy would match the lower price and charge the brand for the difference.

As other brick-and-mortar retailers jumped on the trend, brands started to see large losses in their margins.

Gain Ecommerce Control with Pattern

The danger that disjointed sellers pose to brands is enormous—without a way to control all of a brand’s distribution points on ecommerce, your brand spins farther and farther down the profitability death spiral. Using custom technology and data-driven insights, Pattern can identify disjointed and unauthorized sellers for your brand and develop a custom strategy tailored to your specific needs to address these big issues as soon as possible. Then, Pattern partners with the econtrol law firm, VORYs, to enforce take downs and save brands who find themselves caught on any stage of the death spiral.

With the right resources and expert help, we’ve helped hundreds of brands to regain their footing and control on ecommerce, win the buy box, and grow their sales. 

Contact us today to regain your brand control.

Aug 4, 2022

Ecommerce Innovators Podcast - Achieving Growth Through Technology

Join us for Ecommerce Innovators, a podcast that brings together the brightest minds in the industry to explore innovative strategies and trends in global ecommerce. We'll analyze what top brands are doing to accelerate their online success and you’ll hear from top executives who are changing the game for their organizations. Our host is John LeBaron, Chief Revenue Officer at Pattern—the premier partner for global ecommerce acceleration.

Listen on Spotify

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In our conversation with John Wessel, CTO and SVP of Product & Digital at Fresh Water Systems, he talks about digital transformation, innovation, and growth. Hear about the many hats John’s wears, how the company has transformed since the 90s to stay cutting edge, the pharmacy part of the business, aligning and prioritizing multiple channels, and competing with Amazon.

Ecommerce Innovators Episode Synopsis

As we interviewed John Wessel, here are some things we learned:

Content leads to search ranking. For Fresh Water Systems’ ecommerce site, around 70% of their traffic is to the blog. The secret for content is “well-researched, well-written, long form content that is informative”. John explained that they have an SEO team who writes 5000+ word posts that are researched and documented. People read these blogs and comment, which drives more traffic to the blogs.

Ecommerce is changing the shopping game. John shared an interesting story about a plumber who orders parts every Friday night online, from wherever he can get the best price. He doesn’t have relationships with one supplier or an auto-renew subscription for his parts. Instead, he finds the best price just for the parts he needs every week. John thinks the trend of price shopping will continue, especially as ecommerce grows.

Invest in customer engagement, but don’t invest a lot of time into emails. How many advertising emails do you actually read? Companies often spend a lot of time doing A/B tests and crafting the “perfect” email. However, John pointed out that almost no one reads emails anymore. Instead, invest your time into different brand touchpoints you will have with your customer. You can still send emails, but make sure you dedicate less time to the process.

Listen to the full episode for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Aug 3, 2022

How Pattern Took Sylvania Beyond Amazon to Achieve Double Digit Growth

As the leading automotive supplier and long-time brick-and-mortar brand of high performance lighting products, Sylvania was facing challenges to increase profitability on ecommerce.  Exclusively available on Amazon and direct to consumer, Sylvania built a strong seller network, with huge market share, but was having issues with compliance and optimizing ecommerce.

As the top ecommerce accelerator, partnering with Pattern provides the expertise and deep marketplace knowledge to identify additional marketplace opportunities for brands, and the strategic teams to effectively launch on global marketplaces. Partnering with Pattern was critical for Sylvania to grow its profitability on and beyond Amazon.  

Pattern Develops and Launches a Custom Marketplace Playbook

By effectively evaluating the opportunity for new customer growth, increasing profitability, and outperforming competitors, Pattern’s marketplace experts and brand managers went above and beyond to help Sylvania diversify its ecommerce portfolio.  

In addition to creating an eBay storefront, Sylvania expanded its products to Target+ and Walmart.com. In some instances, like on Walmart, Sylvania was already available on the marketplace but changed its strategy from a 1P seller model, which has its own challenges and roadblocks, to a 3P partner seller model–naming Pattern as its partner.

Whether it was launching on new marketplaces or shifting its seller strategy to achieve greater marketplace success, Sylvania benefited from Pattern’s relationships with and deep understanding of how to succeed on marketplaces.  

In addition, as an ecommerce accelerator, Pattern invests in Sylvania’s product and manages the brand’s entire ecommerce journey on each marketplace. This partnership takes the stress and fear out of launching somewhere new so the brand does not need to understand the nuances, best practices, and details of each individual marketplace.

Sylvania Sales Jump Almost 100%

Not only did Pattern help Sylvania with their simple goal to increase its availability on marketplaces beyond Amazon, the ecommerce accelerator helped the automotive supplier achieve: 

Exponential Sales Growth:

  • 97% sales revenue growth YoY from November 2018 to November 2019

  • 151% unit sales growth YoY from November 2018 to November 2019

Flawless Marketplace Growth:

  • Sylvania has expanded to Amazon, eBay, Target+ and Walmart, all with Pattern’s strategic marketplace expertise and knowledge

  • Target+ is difficult to get approved to sell on, but Pattern’s marketplaces team and its resources was the necessary advantage to get Sylvania listed

    • Pattern managed the administrative and compliance logistics to get products approved, listed, and optimized to match other marketplaces

    • Pattern is also working with Target to redefine categories so they better match Sylvania’s products 

  • Pattern’s customer service team helped Sylvania’s eBay business achieve 100% positive customer feedback

Pattern has the resources necessary for a brand to take control on existing and launch on new marketplaces.

"Pattern is truly an extension of our brand. They know what they are doing when it comes to everything needed for a brand to succeed on marketplaces.”

- Chris Mitchell, Sylvania OmniChannel Analytics Manager

Contact us today to build your game plan for and take control of your marketplace strategy.