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Toys R Us exec: Mobile is a significant strategic advantage

June 15, 2012

NEW YORK – A Toys R Us executive at the 2012 MMA Forum said that mobile provides a significant advantage as the company continues to transform itself from a bricks-and-mortar chain into an omnichannel merchant.

The focus of the “Location-Targeting and the Physical Store,” session was around how mobile is changing the consumer shopping experience and how retailers need to change along with this trend. The executive said that mobile continues to be Toys R Us’ fastest growing channel.

“Traffic from mobile devices continues grow – it is our fastest growing channel,” said Milton Pappas, vice president of the ecommerce customer experience at Toys R Us, Wayne, NJ. “With regard to customer access from a bricks-and-mortar perspective, I think it is a huge advantage.

“Customers have responded to these new offerings and services in a big way,” he said. “Online and mobile really levels the playing field and leveraging the store network across mobile has been a huge strategic advantage.”

“The future of shopping is here today.”

The technology advantage
According to Mr. Pappas, Toys R Us has evolved from a traditional retailer to an omnichannel retailer, driven in large part by how the retail landscape has changed over the past 15 years and the difficulties the company was facing connecting with consumers in this new environment as a traditional retailer.

“The change was big and it wasn’t easy, but we needed to evolve,” Mr. Pappas said.

“The digital revolution is being driven by the consumer and whether the retailer likes it or not, they have to be there because the consumer is there,” he said. “Retailers are faced with how to create loyalty and how to change their business models.

“The bricks-and-mortar store is a strategic advantage so the question is how do we use technology to our advantage as retailers.”


The digital revolution has meant that consumers are armed with more information than ever before, leading to new shopping activities such as showrooming, which is when an in-store shopper uses a mobile device to find a similar item to what is available on the shelf but that is being offered at a lower price online.

With almost 80 percent of consumers using more than one channel, it made sense for the retailer to jump into new channels such as ecommerce and to continue embracing new channels as they emerged, such as mobile.

The steps Toys R Us has taken to become an omnichannel retailer have included introducing an in-store ordering system that gives customers and store associates access to the Internet to order items they cannot find in the store, the ability to buy online and pick up in store.

The merchant also offers mobile apps and is experimenting with mobile payments.

Purchase funnel
In the previous session, “Where Art Meets Science – Location-Targeted Mobile Advertising,” a PayPal executive discussed the idea of a purchase funnel has disappeared because the emergence of multiple screens enables customers to initiate and complete their purchases whenever and wherever they want. This is presenting both challenges and opportunities for advertisers and merchants.

“The idea of a purchase funnel is gone,” said Walt Doyle, general manager of PayPal Media Network, San Jose, CA.

“The result is we don’t know where the shopping experience begins,” he said. “It might be on a customer’s mobile device, at their desktop at work or on a tablet while they are watching TV.

“Retailers and brands need to be there where they are while they are making those decisions throughout the cycle.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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