Last month, large children’s toy retailer Toys R Us announced that it would be closing one-fifth of its store locations as part of its bankruptcy reorganization plans. For most consumers, this news isn’t surprising. It no longer makes sense to go to a Toys R Us store or even to visit the Toys R Us website when you can find any product you want on Amazon — often at a cheaper price with better shipping terms and helpful reviews.
Company chief executive Dave Brandon said in a letter, “The reinvention of our brands requires that we make tough decisions about our priorities and focus.” Realistically, Toys R Us needs a radical business strategy change to stay in business going forward.
To me, the path forward is clear and compelling. The answer is hyper-personalization.
1. Understand toys more deeply than anyone else
Toys R Us is an expert in toys. Or at least it should be (its name is Toys R Us, after all). But to actually leverage its expertise in toys requires the following steps.
Toys R Us needs to catalog every attribute and aspect of every one of its toys. Attributes like the appropriate age range for the toy, whether it flies or includes chemistry, the colors or characters it includes — anything that could be used to describe the toy.
The company has a ton of sales associates that could be used as a secret weapon here. They can add detail to the database of toy attributes to make it complete. They could do this during downtime between on-floor tasks and customer assistance.
Toys R Us could also crowd-source this knowledge, enabling its own customers to input this data to help one another as a community.
2. Understand each customer better than anyone else
With the consent of the parent, of course, Toys R Us should collect enough customer data to understand the preferences of each shopper — and by extension the preferences of the child the customer is shopping for. By using more programs like its rewards cards, it should know the child’s birthday and the holidays that matter to the family. These opt-in programs would provide the age of the child and help the company understand his evolving interests as he grows up. It should understand the members of the family and their relations.
This profile is so essential that Toys R Us should take steps to require or strongly incentivize customers to log in to its site as well as self-identify on a mobile app while in their stores. When incentivized, customers will log in (this has been proven to work in the past — it’s the true purpose and genius of Amazon Prime).
3. Bring that understanding of toys and the customer together
Toys R Us needs to bring together the information about its shoppers and its knowledge of toys to create a community centered around radically personalized digital experiences and digital-enabled, hyper-personalized in-store experiences — driven by machine learning.
These experiences should not be centered around pushing products. Hyper-relevant product suggestions are essential, but should be complemented with relevant content, suggested categories of toys, and proactive parental engagement about issues with toys and opportunities.
These personalized experiences must extend across channels. For example, sending appropriately timed emails — when the shopper is likely to be looking for toys — that contain incredibly relevant toy suggestions. It should have a mobile app that the shopper can use in the store to make the in-store experience as tailored as possible, and it needs to provide store personnel with tablets to bring this kind of insight to bear in conversations with shoppers.
Direct Advice for Toys R Us
Allow me to speak directly to the leadership team at Toys R Us. You need a new vision for the company. You are not a place to buy toys. You are a company that deeply understands each customer and each child and the expert in the toys available on the market. Only you can make the best match between each child and toy.
Once you can turn that vision into a reality, why would customers go anywhere else?
Evergage can do this for you today, by the way. Let’s talk.