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Toys “R” Us makes SMS linchpin in strategy to reach busy parents on-the-go

August 21, 2013

Toys"R"Us SMS blast

With 450,000 subscribers to its text messaging program that it reaches out to regularly, Toys “R” Us is clearly a leader in SMS marketing for retailers.

The retailer sends regular text messages supporting key shopping periods and promoting important new product launches.  For example, it sent an SMS blast last week offering 15 percent off back-to-school purchases while this week, Toys “R” Us leveraged SMS to announce Disney’s new Infinity video game products.

“Mobile is a key component of the company’s omnichannel strategy, allowing customers to shop with Toys “R” Us wherever they are and receive great offers while on-the-go,” said Meghan Kennedy, assistant manager of corporate communications for Toys “R” Us, Wayne, NJ. “We continuously look for ways to engage our customers through mobile, whether it be through our shopping apps or SMS program.

“Our SMS program currently has approximately 450,000 subscribers that we reach out to on a regular basis with information on fantastic deals and savings,” she said.

“Back-to-School is a significant initiative for Toys “R” Us, which is supported with a fully integrated marketing program, inclusive of SMS. By supporting this initiative with mobile and SMS offers, busy moms and dads can easily access all of the great Back-to-School offers available at Toys “R” Us whenever and wherever they are.”

Toys “R” Us savings
For the back-to-school offer, consumers had the ability to take 15 percent off their entire purchase at Toys”R”Us or Babies”R”Us. They could redeem it online using the promo code Extra15, or they could redeem it in-store using a mobile coupon that displays a bar code which cashiers could scan.

If consumers clicked on the link within the SMS, they would be directed to a microsite that further explained the 15 percent coupon as well as listed details about the “Ultimate Back-to-school Sale.”

The Toys”R”Us mobile site from the SMS link

The sale included features such as a free lunch kit with the purchase of a backpack. These deals were only available in-store, driving foot traffic to the bricks-and-mortar locations.

The back-to-school sale and coupon ended on August 17, but the very next day, Toys “R” Us sent out another SMS blast with new deals.

These deals included a buy-one-get-one-half-off for all Disney Infinity products, which just hit stores this week. The offers are available until Aug. 24.

The mobile coupon

SMS offers
SMS offers are a great way to connect with consumers on the go, so Toys “R” Us is definitely on the righ path.

According to Cezar Kolodziej, president/CEO of Iris Mobile, SMS sees a 98 percent open rate and averages double digit redemption rates. It is therefore one of the more rewarding channels that can be used by marketers.

John Styers, executive vice president of Sumotext, Little Rock, AR, agrees that SMS is a great channel for marketers to leverage.

“The use of SMS to a base of opt-in subscribers is the fastest and most effective way to achieve the reach desired by retail marketers,” Mr. Styers said. “Their messages drive interaction with the Web site, and the offers are actionable for online and at-retail redemption. I also like the fact that they are attempting to capture more information about the subscriber as the messaging relationship matures.”

SMS also allows brands to stand out in an app-packed market. Even though apps offer a richer experience, SMS is a sure way to reach consumers without hoping that they download and repeatedly visit an app.

There are, however, some limitations with SMS. For example, messages can only contain 160 characters of plain text.

Marketers try to get around this obstacle by including links to mobile sites, but consumers with feature phones may not be able to access that link from their phone. This may alienate consumers, per Mr. Kolodziej.

According to Iris’s Mr. Kolodziej, marketers can solve these problems by using Rich Media Messaging.

“Mobile should be important to all retailers and brands,” Mr. Kolodziej said. “This is the device of choice to the majority of consumers and should be fully leveraged to reach consumers on the go.

“Toys “R” Us is ahead of the curve compared to other brands, and I am sure they are already witnessing how powerful this channel can be when implemented and executed correctly,” he said.

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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