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July 9, 2020

How to Start Marketing Toys Online

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Marketing toys is no toy story. In America, it’s serious business.

Toys are a $20.91 billion industry in the U.S. Retail online sales of toys are projected to reach 47.9% of the total retail sales by 2023. So, yes, it’s a great idea to start marketing toys in America.

Here’s a blueprint of how to get your toy e-commerce business up and running.

Discover Your Audience and Market

The U.S. toy market is highly competitive. Competition from online retailers and cheaper Chinese products has driven down prices and slashed profit margins for years. The decline in birth rate and exposure of young children to smartphones and tablets hasn’t been much help either.

But this is not to say the market is not ripe for new entrants, particularly the e-commerce market. E-commerce toys sales have been growing just as in-store sales have been declining. Toy manufacturers, retailers and toy e-commerce startups can still find plenty of space in the market if they do the marketing right. And marketing, as we all know, starts with customers.

Here are a few tips and interesting facts from the U.S. toys market to get you started.

  • Consult toy marketing data and gather marketing and regulatory information from the Toy Association. Gain in depth knowledge of toy buying behavior.
  • Children are the influencers in the toy purchase process. Purchase decisions are made by parents, so it’s important to target both in your toys marketing strategy.
  • Adults also buy toys for themselves and other adults. According to the findings of a survey held in 2018, 57% of adult males between 25 and 45 still buy children’s toys for themselves.
  • Sales data released by the Toy Association shows that action figures and accessories are the hottest category of toys, with sales growing at 11% from 2018 to 2019. Stuffed toys (-11%) and youth electronics (-28%) are the least favorite.
  • Understand the buying journey of your customers—children, parents, and adults. How and where do they discover new products? Where do they go to search for more information about toys? Where do they buy? Answering these questions will help you create the toy marketing strategy, which is the next step.

Have a Great Product that Sells

When marketing toys in America, you’re up against bigger, meaner online competitors—Wal-Mart, Amazon, and the like. As a small business, you’ll need to do something special, something unique to ace the sales. In today’s world of digital and social media, sales and growth are built into the product itself. Here are a few tips and examples to help you produce or procure wonderful toy products.

To be really successful as an online toys business, a company needs to have a continuing idea generation and innovation process. Look out for new ideas and unique toys and follow the basic methods of creative thinking to come up with amazing products.

The Creativity Camera is a child-friendly iPhone camera case that lets kids snap photos and put silly filters on them using mommy’s or daddy’s iPhone; without actually touching the iPhone. The idea was conceived when innovators observed moms handing kids their iPhones in the grocery store or car.

  • Look for genuine feedback from children. Kids try hard not to hurt your feelings if they know you are the designer. So, the best way to coax their earnest opinion is to say someone else designed it and you’re only testing it.
  • Build a product that kids can relate to. For example, Zhu Zhu Pets are interactive stuffed toys—hamsters to be exact. The original Zhu Zhu Pets are nine different characters, each with a unique name, personality, and attitude. They are designed to respond to kids just like a real hamster would. Kids can form a relationship with them and that’s why they’re hugely successful. It’s the same secret that made Pokémon so popular in the last decade.
The Zhu Zhu Pets

  • Follow the process of iterative development by testing and improving the minimum viable product (MVP) at each stage of development. Read this blog post to learn more about product development and go-to-market strategy.

Create Your Toy Marketing Plan

The average American child has between 70 and 100 toys at any given age. American parents spend an average $6,500 per child on toys by the time kids reach their teens. To carve a niche in this lucrative market, a company needs a robust marketing plan that covers the following areas.

  • What customer segments are you targeting? The choice depends upon the types of toys you’re trying to market. Different segments can include:
  • Young boys and parents
  • Young girls and parents
  • Parents only (for newborn and infant toys)
  • Adults segment
  • Create ideal customer personas for the segments you’re targeting. The customer personas should include the demographics, psychological profile, media habits, interests, opinions, attitudes, and preferences of your audience so you may reach them with personalized marketing messages.
  • Select the digital media channels that most of your customers use. The company’s own web store, social media profiles (particularly Facebook), YouTube, and Amazon are a great combination for marketing toys.
  • Design a sales funnel (or a lead generation funnel) by tracking the buyer’s journey and placing your marketing assets along their purchase path. Here’s an example:
  • Top of the funnel: A potential buyer discover a new product by watching a YouTube video  (marketing asset)
  • Middle of the funnel: The buyer reads reviews (marketing asset) on Facebook
  • Bottom of the funnel: The buyer visits your sale page (marketing asset)
  • Decide your pricing strategy keeping in view your profit margins and competition. Allocate budget for marketing and advertising because you’re going to need it. Sort out business details such as product sourcing, warehousing, shipping, returns, and guarantees.

Select an E-commerce Platform

An e-commerce store is the first thing you need to start selling toys online. Using one of the following platforms, toy manufacturers, importers, retailers, and can set up their own stores and start selling directly to customers.

  • Shopify is a great choice for startups and small-to-medium-sized toy retailers. Everything you need to become an e-commerce seller is already integrated—from storefront design to content marketing to performance analytics
  • Big Commerce is best for established small or medium sized businesses that want a lot more from their e-commerce store. It’s more powerful than Shopify and more expensive too. Plus, the advanced features give it a steep learning curve.
  • Woocommerce is the WordPress e-commerce plugin that is perfect for small and medium businesses that already have a website on WordPress and want to set up a robust e-commerce presence on a tight budget.
  • Magento is best for small-to-medium-sized businesses that have already established demand, as well as the time, manpower and skill to build their own site.
  • Wix and Squarespace offer drag-and-drop store builders and are best for startups and entrepreneurs that have basic e-commerce needs no access to a dedicated web designer.

Run Multichannel Marketing Campaigns

Now that your web store is up and running and your social media profiles are set up, you’ll need to launch a persistent marketing effort to drive visitors. The marketing research will tell you the best channels to reach your audience. If you can afford, target all the best channels with consistent, high-quality content. A little advertising can spice things up, but content comes first.

Content Marketing for Toys and Games

Create a content marketing strategy that rationalizes what type of content is to be shared on which channels how frequently. The customer research should divulge the most pressing problems, concerns, interests, opinions, and media habits of your audience. Using this info you can decide the themes and topics of the content as well as the best channels to get it to your audience.

Marketing Toys on YouTube

If you search for ‘toys’ on YouTube, you’ll notice that most toy related channels have views numbering into the millions or tens of millions. Now, where else can you get that many eyeballs on your products? We live in an age when even toddlers and young kids have access to smartphones and tablets. YouTube is their main destination and toy videos are their most favorite content. So, any business that is marketing toys online absolutely must be on YouTube.

And Youtube is no problem even if you aren’t selling Lego or Transformers that could inspire blockbuster movies. You can just shoot a video clip of your toys and make it interesting for kids. The following Zhu Zhu Pets video didn’t cost much to produce but has 12 million views.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Your online toy store looks awesome, but it’s no use if no one ever visits it. Search engine optimization makes your store appear among top search results when people search on Google for the type of toys you’re selling. Getting on the first page of Google can send a continuous flow of visitors to your store. With neatly designed, conversion optimized sale pages, many of your visitors will become paying customers.

Pay per Click (PPC) Advertising

Toys are a tough category, so your ecommerce store may not be able to appear on Google’s front page for many search queries no matter how good the SEO. Google’s pay-per-click or PPC advertising is the shortcut to top organic positions. On average, ecommerce businesses earn $2 in sales for each dollar they spend on PPC advertising.

Paid search and display ads don’t cost you anything until a potential customer clicks on the ad. That means you can get free publicity mileage as your business and brand are on top of every search that takes place on Google for the keywords you select. PPC is the best way to kick start sales and a strategy no toy marketer can afford to miss.

Marketing Toys on Amazon

Amazon is the biggest threat for small toy brands trying to go it on their own. They have every toy and toy category under the sun, a huge customer base, and a beautiful selling platform. But you, too, can play that game --use Amazon as another online channel to push your products. Marketing toys on Amazon would put your toys within reach of 197 million monthly visitors.

With a great product selection, proper optimization, a thoughtful pricing strategy, and a little bit of paid advertising, Amazon may turn into one of the biggest revenue streams for any toys and games business.

Recap

Toys are a 20 billion dollar industry in America and the e-commerce share of sales is growing fast. The market is fiercely competitive, with mega players like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Ebay, Target, and Costco claiming major share of the market. There’s still space for small and medium toy retailer, manufacturers, and importers; but they have to do everything right to be successful marketing toys online.

Research your audience and market, create or source innovative and unique products, work out a robust online marketing plan, build your web store using one of the best e-commerce platforms, and launch a multichannel marketing campaign to start selling online. Let us know if you need help marketing toys in America!

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