What the Amazon Toy Catalogue Says About Knowing Its Customers


When it comes to toys, Amazon sees the power of going offline. For the second year in a row, it’s issued an old-fashioned paper catalog that comes in the mail. This year’s edition of the Amazon Toy Catalog tells us something about Amazon’s sales goals, and also shows just how much personalized information Amazon has in its databanks to help drive shopper demand.

Didn’t see it? That’s because it’s mailed only to households who’ve purchased from Amazon before, and where children are present.

But those are only the first two ways Amazon segments their mailing lists. From there, the slicing and dicing really takes off.

The catalog is the second edition; they issued their first toy catalog in 2018. In the 2019 version, Amazon rolled out a few new tricks to target the right toy shoppers for the holidays. You can deconstruct the catalog editions to understand some of the strategy.

Customized catalogs for each recipient

The recipient of the catalog shown in these pictures has a two-year-old child. Not at all coincidentally, most items in the catalog at the start and mid-point of the catalog were geared toward a toddler-level audience.

There’s a sticker sheet to tag your wishlist items. This is a fun addition designed to help both parents and children to engage with the content. There’s also a mad-libs page and space for kids to write their own wishlist.

Sticker page from Amazon's Toy Catalog
A page of stickers in Amazon’s 2019 Toy Catalog

Another catalog recipient, this time with older children, received a different version of the catalog. In theirs, the older kid toys were displayed at the starting and mid-points, with younger kid toys at the end.

One industry analyst quoted by Forbes predicts that Amazon will probably move next to produce custom content for each recipient. They know from the size of Halloween costumes that were ordered, what are the ages of the children in the household. They’ve also been recording your shopping preferences by brand, type, and more.

Co-branded marketing for maximum profit

The catalog reminds you that you can find the TV shows that correspond to licensed products sold on Amazon. Amazon Prime now has some popular kid TV shows of their own, like The Stinky & Dirty Show, and If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. Some licensed toys are promoted as Amazon-exclusive items.

This is a great way to ensure member stickiness — like their own version of McDonalds Happy Meals.

In future editions, Amazon could also include products in the catalog based on which actualTV shows the family has been watching in their Prime Video account. Those co-branded products are already featured in a general way in the catalog, but look for targeting to go deeper next year.

A page from Amazon's 2019 Toy Catalog
A page from Amazon’s 2019 Toy Catalog, showing some licensed products from TV shows featured on Amazon Prime Video.

Another brilliant innovation: Combining old and new tech for dynamic pricing in a static, paper catalog

Sample page from Amazon's 2019 Toy Catalog with QR SmileCode
A page from Amazon’s 2019 Toy Catalog, with the ‘SmileCode’ QR code

Since Amazon reprices items on its site millions of times per day, it’s impossible to advertise a set price for each item in a static piece of snail mail. Rather than listing prices on the page, the catalog offers “Scan & Shop” SmileCodes, which are QR codes that will display the product listing info and “buy” buttons on their mobile device.

This brilliant workaround not only ensures customers don’t see an outdated price, but it draws shoppers directly to where they can make the purchase. The SmileCode scanner can be found in the “Visual” tab of the Amazon mobile app.

Psychology that drives conversions


Amazon will surely see positive responses from this. We know from neuroscience that direct mail, as a medium, is extremely effective at building an emotional connection with customers and driving demand. Children are even more susceptible to these impulses when they can see a “book” full of fun toys that can arrive on the doorstep in two days or less. Even the stickers in the catalog generate higher levels of engagement, as we say in marketing.

It’s always fascinating to watch what Amazon will do next.

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