Retail is changing: the Toys R Us effect


When it comes to eCommerce and retail, it’s about more than just a transaction. For the consumer, the decision comes down to a number of different selling points including customer experience (CX) and convenience.

In an increasingly fast-paced industry, consumers now expect more. From sophisticated search, fast checkouts, to next day (if not same day) delivery options, it is this convenience that now guides a shoppers purchasing decisions.

As someone involved in the eCommerce industry, I admire brands such as Amazon and ASOS who's online stores hold no barriers for consumers and make purchasing super easy. Notably, these are two brands that only operate online and do not have a physical storefront which may perhaps be one of the key reasons they have been able to perfect their offering.

But, what if you fail to offer convenience online? What if you’re a retailer who generates the majority of conversions through a brick and mortar store?


Convenience vs in-store experience

Iconic household name, Toys R Us collapsed into administration at the end of February. This got us thinking about how this could happen to what was once the UK’s most popular toy store. From my perspective the answers are simple, Toys R Us failed to innovate - failing to provide their customers with convenience nor an unordinary experience.


In 2000, Toys R Us didn’t believe in the power of the internet and outsourced their fulfilment to Amazon. As society became increasingly familiar with purchasing toys online and even from the supermarket whilst getting their weekly shop, the brand did not appear to implement any changes that would try to tackle this issue. Too late to the game, the brand finally invested in improving their online offering in May 2017. Streamlining their website browsing and minimising the checkout process from five or more clicks to two, the brand desperately tried to catch up on 10 years of innovation.

As an onlooker, I wonder if their lack of convenience could have been overcompensated by offering a better than average in-store experience? Driving customers to physical stores by offering unique experiences is something other traditional brick and mortar stores have successfully adopted.

A fashion retailer whose experiences are worth swapping the laptop for is Topshop - specifically its flagship store on London’s Oxford Street which uses a combination of pop-up retail and experiential campaigns. Alongside their free personal shopping service, in-store beauty salons and cafés, the store also has interactive VR displays and regular pop-ups such as Lola’s cupcakes.

For a fun brand like Toys R Us, the opportunities to innovate and break the norm could have been endless. Making the experience less about the end goal and more about the customer through simple changes such as employing engaged staff, hosting interactive toy demos or putting on children’s events and activities. Tempting customers with things they might not even realise they wanted whilst their in-store.


Innovate or deteriorate... fast

It’s not just Toys R Us that have filed for bankruptcy or have faced financial troubles through lack of innovation. Major brands such as HMV, Borders, Kodak, and Blockbuster have all struggled to cope with meeting the needs of the modern consumer, whilst many other brands are at risk of following suit.

The key message from this is to never live on past glories. Don’t sit still or get complacent. Regularly re-evaluate both your online and offline experience and strive to improve your CX in line, if not ahead of customer’s expectations. Put your customers first, and make sure convenience and experience are at the heart of your strategy.