The Unreality Store is an independent online store selling a huge range of back-issue comics, vintage sci-fi and fantasy novels, and classic role-playing games. Founded by collectable and comic-book enthusiast Matthew Demonti in 2019, The Unreality Store sells the stuff that their community enjoys reading, playing, and discussing, and they work hard to deliver a great buying experience that keeps customers coming back time and time again. They offer a huge range of products on their online shelves with nearly 20,000 carefully described and catalogued items available to explore and buy.
What challenge did The Unreality Store face?
Founder Matthew wanted to improve The Unreality Store’s online visibility and increase meaningful traffic to the site. This was challenging as some of the traditional ways to achieve this – such as optimising product descriptions for SEO – didn’t make sense for a business that sells so many unique items. Matthew had been testing different approaches as the business grew but was looking for further expert support to successfully engage a larger audience.
How did SEMLEP provide support?
Matthew came across SEMLEP through a poster in the business area at a local library. He applied for a grant to fund digital marketing activity with support from SEMLEP business adviser Carl Mayers who he describes as “incredibly helpful”. He explains how Carl challenged him to think differently about the business:
“He wasn’t just helpful in the context of the grant application. [It was also] talking in the round about the business and challenging me on a few issues, which – for all the right reasons – made me feel quite uncomfortable … but at the same time, they’re posed for the right reasons.”
After successfully being awarded a SEMLEP Recovery and Resilience Grant of £3000, Matthew engaged Eighty Eight Digital to improve The Unreality Store’s visibility on Google by ensuring the website was optimised for Google’s algorithm and that advertising spend was focused on the right keywords. The digital marketers also undertook competitor research to see if there were any best practices The Unreality Store could emulate. With the SEMLEP grant, Matthew instructed Eighty Eight Digital for three months and the results have been so promising that The Unreality Store is funding a further month of support.
“I’ve connected with a number of new clients through some of the subtle changes that they’ve done – in terms of some of the keyword search work and search engine optimisation – who have become repeat purchasers, and have used my site to fill gaps in their collection, which is exactly what I want people to do.”
Matthew reflects very positively on his SEMLEP experience as a whole, highlighting his relationship with Carl as a real high point:
“The relationship that I have with Carl, it was quite useful for me that he was a collector himself of vinyl. So he got a lot of the parts of the business and the way I wanted to, and do, run the business. Through his collecting of vinyl, he has similar experiences with people that sell him records. So that was really useful.”
He added that the structured accountability of the coaching sessions was great for pushing him to take key actions:
“We spoke about setting goals for [the] business, putting together a short-term, mid-term, long-term business plan, all of those kinds of fundamentals that you know you have to do but sometimes get brushed to the side because you’re in the day-to-day running of your business. Carl’s input through the sessions – giving me some kind of homework to do – forced me to go through those actions.”
The Unreality Store continues to grow, with plans to increase its product range and host stands at conventions and events in the UK this year. Matthew says the support from SEMLEP has been “very, very helpful” to the business as a whole and is keen to work with them again in the future.