By now, most people have heard about the Toys “R” Us bankruptcy. Upon visiting the site, a message pops up directing customers to their brick-and-mortar locations to “take full advantage of the deep discounts and deals available,” aka liquidation.
What are the new joys of selling toys online?
The Toys R Us Void
For decades, Toys R Us dominated the market. With thousands of stores across the world, they were the de facto brand that surfaced anytime toys were discussed. But saddled with debt, constrained a lack of online proactivity and placing too much emphasis on their brick-and-mortar locations ultimately did them in. While Toys R Us never delivered a smooth online shopping experience, their brand name still commanded a lot of online sales — sales that are now up for grabs.
Toys R Us sold $1.68 billion online in 2017 at a 13 percent growth rate, according to Internet Retailer. Among the 19 toy and hobby merchants in Internet Retailer’s top 1000, Toys R Us is the largest, owning 37 percent of the overall $4.6 billion in online sales.
Couple the market revenue left by Toys R Us with the $23.8 billion toys and hobby e-commerce is expected to generate in revenue by 2019 and it’s clear opportunities exist for e-commerce toy and hobby companies.
But how can smaller e-commerce toy companies tap into the market share Toys R Us is leaving behind, especially as giants like Amazon and Walmart look to gain more of the pie?
New Opportunity, Same Recipe for Success
While Toys R Us’ departure frees up more revenue in the market, it doesn’t really change the strategies for other toy companies. After all, Toys R Us survived online because of their brand awareness and customer loyalty, not because of their online experience. Other toy e-stores don’t have that luxury, meaning their success solely hinges on how engaging their brand is and how enjoyable—or frustrating—their site is to use.
- Brand Name – Is your brand memorable? Does it relate to what you actually offer or are people confused at what your company does when you tell them your company name? Toys R Us undoubtedly owed some of its growth to the aptness of its brand name; it doesn’t get more toy-centric than “Toys R Us.”
- Logo – Is your logo fun or stilted? A poorly designed logo will leave more questions than answers, while a well-thought-out logo might not even need a brand name to be memorable. Ideally, your logo communicates playfulness but also looks polished and professional. You can take advantage of different tools to help your brainstorming process. Shopify, for example, offers a custom logo maker to get the creative juices flowing.
- Your Story – It’s not enough to provide a smooth online shopping Consumers want to buy from brands they adore and trust, especially when toys and hobby products are concerned. Some may even be pulled in by attractive deals and plans like a Toy subscription for example, so you may want to consider this as a feature. Make sure your ‘About Us’ page provides a narrative that engages visitors and gives them a positive feeling about your brand. But don’t be afraid to take chances and make it fun! You’re a toy company after all!
- Navigation – Is your site structure and navigation intuitive? How many clicks does it take a user to reach the checkout?
- Layout – Can you display several products on a category page in a clear way that doesn’t overwhelm a shopper?
- Image Optimization – More traffic is being driven through Google Image search since Google removed the “view image” feature. For brands to show up in image searches though, they need to offer high-quality, SEO-optimized images of their toys. Doing so will earn brands more organic traffic and conversions.
- Shipping – Unless shipping extremely heavy or fragile items, free shipping is non-negotiable at this stage of the game. Don’t put an order threshold on free shipping—just offer it. Unless, of course, you have several toys that only cost a few bucks. If this is the case, you might want to rethink your online business model.
- Include sales tax – It’s a very small detail, but small details matter. In fact, Toys R Us failed at sales tax, only adding it at the end of the checkout process. Keep things transparent and your customers will trust your brand more.
- Keep Prices Competitive – Unless you’re selling toys that no other company is selling, you’ll want your prices to be competitive. Did you know that 72 percent of shoppers visit Amazon before making an online purchase?
- Invest in Shipping and Fulfillment – Unless you’ll be selling through a third-party marketplace, you’ll need to invest extensively in a good shipping and fulfillment process in order to offer the timely, free shipping consumers expect.
- Market to Adults, But Leave a Lasting Effect for Kids – You’re a toy company, but at the end of the day adults are browsing your website and purchasing toys for their kids. Your marketing efforts should walk the line between being adult-focused, while maintaining appeal for kids. One idea could be to include unique cost-effective freebies with each order for kids will end up looking forward to. As anyone with kids knows, sometimes it’s not the high-dollar toy they fall in love with but rather the simple item that might not cost much, if anything.
- Keep Product Selection in Check – Adults will be selecting and ordering the products they think their kids will enjoy, so keep your product selection in check. Consumers may spend hours browsing Amazon’s endless inventory, but that doesn’t mean they’ll do the same on your site. Focus on quality over quantity to keep the shopping experience simple and engaging.
There’s unfortunately not one exact recipe to realize the joys of selling toys online.However, making your site easy to use, displaying your products in an attractive manner and creating a brand with a resonant story, gives your company a chance to keep the e-commerce giants from hoarding the market.