In a move certain to intensify the Internet toy sales battle, Toys "R" Us, Paramus, N.J., last week launched an online store to replace its content-centered Web site.
Designed by Siegel & Gale, New York, the site, www.toysrus.com, includes merchandise from action figures to video games and is structured to aid browsers and users shopping for specific products. An address book allows users to store names and dates of special events.
"We tried to direct [Toys "R" Us] out of the content business and stronger towards commerce," said Lisa Marchese, interactive strategist at Siegel & Gale, which last week bought itself back from Saatchi & Saatchi. "A lot of it is about gift-giving and trying to simplify consumers' lives."
Users can receive suggestions for gifts by entering the child's age. "Very few people tend to shop by brand," Marchese explained. "They know they want Barbie or Godzilla, or Paulie or Teletubbies."
The site will be promoted through media buys on major search engines, she said. Officials from Toys "R" Us did not return calls for comment.
EToys, which purchased fellow online toy retailer Toys.com earlier this year, is ready for competition from the retail giant.
"We think there's room for two players in this market, so to some extent it's good for us that they launch because it validates the space," said Phil Polishook, vice president of marketing for the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company. He added that online bookseller Amazon.com was not hurt by the launch of Barnes and Noble's online store.
Lauren Freedman, president of Chicago-based e-commerce consultancy
e-tailing group, which worked with the toy company on the site, nevertheless said the Toys "R" Us brand lends "power" to their online efforts.
"They've got the right product at the right price, and they can leverage their existing customers," Freedman said.
Polishook said eToys offers a selection of nearly 3,000 toys, and about half its inventory is specialty brands. The company will spend about $1.5 million this year on a print and broadcast campaign, and it also has affiliations online with Yahoo, America Online, Infoseek and Excite.
"We feel like we're pretty well positioned to stay around and duke it out with Toys "R" Us," he said.