The pre-Christmas period is a great time to be a toy retailer. Ads for Lego, Furbies and BB-8s are all around, and parents are being tugged by their sleeve along high streets the world over. But how do you plan for the period after Christmas, even after the January sales, when everything goes back to normal?
“The difficulty for us is that we are an occasion-based retailer,” says Rob Wood, head of online at The Entertainer. “We are very strong at Christmas, and we know customers shop for birthdays and occasional presents throughout the year but we're not a multi-category retailer like an Amazon, or a fashion retailer, like River Island, where people will shop with them frequently throughout the year.”
As you’d expect, this has impacted on all aspects of the retailer’s strategy, including mobile. The Entertainer launched a responsive site in early 2015, its first mobile presence. This quickly took the channel “from being a weakness to one of our real strengths,” according to Wood, leading mobile sales to “more than double year-on-year, while desktop has been pretty much flat for the past couple of years”. The retailer now sees around 50 per cent of online revenues coming from mobile – roughly eight per cent of sales overall.
It has resisted following this success with an app, however, and that decision is at least partly driven by the emphasis on holiday purchases. As Wood puts it: “The question that we're asking ourselves is why would you download an Entertainer app if you're only going to use it a couple of times a year?”
Christmas isn’t the only date in the diary that The Entertainer has to consider, though. The other big purchase dates for parents is birthdays – not only their own offspring’s but their friends and family too.
“The really difficult thing for us historically has been that obviously we know our database are shopping throughout the year, because they've got their presents to buy, but we haven't previously known what time of the year that these birthdays fall on,” says Wood.
“We've basically had no option but to keep emailing people with the same stuff every week – and once a year you get it right.”
This year, however, the retailer has started to take kids’ birthdays collected through its website – it has a database of 80,000 kids – and plug them into messaging platform SmartFocus, in an attempt to better capitalise on the opportunity.
“We then send out targeted campaigns six weeks ahead of the day, to make sure that we own that shopping journey leading up to the birthday,” he says. “And because we know a little bit about the child, their age and their gender, we can send out tailored recommendations to these parents so if it's a seven year-old boy we might send them Lego, if it's a three-year old girl we might send Paw Patrol.”
Wood reports that these targeted emails have converted twice as well as sending out a generic ‘are you shopping for a birthday’ e-mail to its database. But what about all those children it doesn’t have a specific birthday for?
“The other part is looking at people who bought this time last year. It's a bit more of a guess but we have found that sending people a campaign saying ‘you bought from us last June, are you looking for gifts again?’ – that’s actually proved a message that resonates with people, because it reminds them that they've got this occasion coming up and gets them thinking about what they can buy.”
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