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Toys?R?Us makes ambitious play for mobile commerce

Toys"R"Us Inc. is ramping up its mobile shopping capabilities with a new mobile Web site and two applications.

In addition to the mobile commerce push, is offering free shipping deals and egift cards. Consumers can also sign up to receive instant email alerts on coupons and unadvertised sales.

"During the holiday shopping season, retailers must do everything they can to reach and support the most consumers possible,? said Nick Taylor, president of Usablenet, New York.

?With mobile commerce on the rise, the retailers that make sure going to their site via mobile is successful, comprehensive with all features and functions, and optimized for every different kind of mobile phone won't have to worry about losing customers due to a bad mobile experience," he said. is the Web portal for Toys?R?Us Inc., one of the biggest toy retailers in the world. The company operates 1,550 stores, including 849 Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores in the United States and more than 700 international stores in 33 countries.

Going mobile
This past weekend officially launched mobile shopping services to provide busy holiday shoppers access to the world's largest online toy store via their Web-enabled handsets.

Consumers can shop the new mobile-enabled site or through applications for RIM's Blackberry or Apple's iPhone. consumers can now make purchases instantly from the new Digby-powered mobile site via their Internet-enabled mobile devices.

Products on the mobile site are sorted by category and brand.

Consumers can also look for gift advice on the mobile site via the What's New store or by viewing the top sellers and new products on

The Web site also features a mobile store locator.

The new mobile site also features customer reviews and ratings to help consumers make purchasing decisions either online or while in-store.

If a product is out-of-stock in the local store, consumers can enter the product number or item name into the mobile site?s search feature to find the availability online.

?There are two kinds of retailers that need to be looking at mobile today ? not as an experiment, but as a must-do priority,? said Nikki Baird, managing partner and Retail Systems Research, Miami. ?Those retailers either have a large customer presence among younger consumers, which are very mobile-oriented. 

?The other set of retailers are those with a heavy cross-channel business ? particularly store-to-Web,? she said. ?For them, there is a lot of benefit in bringing online information and capabilities to the consumer?s hands at the shelf, and consumers are getting trained to expect a depth of information that online already has ? but in the store.?

Fans of the official Toys ?R? Us Facebook fan page can get status updates on weekly and daily deals, special promotions, coupon offers and find out about exclusive deals just for members. will have free shipping for a purchase of $49 or more on Dec. 17.

Also new to this season are egift cards, which can be purchased and emailed immediately to a recipient.

The toy store is also offering two types of buyer protection plans to help protect purchases. The items are noted on the site and consumers choose between the replacement or the service plan.

Ms. Baird said that if a toy retailer is launching a mobile site, they have to be mindful of what age demographic they will draw.

?I think you have to keep it age-appropriate,? Ms. Baird said. ?If you?re talking about content and commerce devoted to teens, who are highly likely to use their phones for things like this, then you?re going to provide something. 

?But you?ll want to focus on things like video games, for example, as opposed to toys targeted to younger kids,? she said. ?And you should probably look at gift card redemption as an angle, because it?s most likely that you?ll catch them through that as opposed to, say, gift giving.?

Ms. Baird said that a lot of toy retailers put out age-directed gift guides, some as mobile applications, to help out family members.

While Ms. Baird said that she thinks those will be valuable, the retailer needs to be prepared to promote it in store just as much as anywhere else. 

Because of the economy, many retailers may have not stocked as much inventory as previous years, but mobile can help solve the problem of hard-to-find toys.

?Where commerce is going to become important via mobile is in-store save the sale,? Ms. Baird said. ?If you recommend a gift that the store doesn?t have, then you?d be missing a big opportunity if you didn?t have that buy button available on a mobile gift guide. 

?Especially given the sentiment that retailers may have under-bought for this holiday season, any way that you can help consumers find scarce products is going to help both consumer and retailer in the end,? she said.