Little Tikes Boosts Sales via Branded E-Mails

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Toy and playhouse manufacturer Little Tikes Co. noticed a lift in overall sales when it focused its e-mail marketing on the company brand rather than referring customers to specific retailers.

Little Tikes was sending three e-mails a month to its 200,000-member list that promoted its products but focused on a single retailer, such as Wal-Mart or Toys 'R' Us. It also sent a Little Tikes-branded e-mail once a month.

The Hudson, OH, company began tracking campaign performance and using in-house analytics software in May 2004. Tracking the traffic from its e-mails to retailers' Web sites showed that the e-mails promoting Little Tikes products at one retail location hurt not only other retailers' sales, but also overall sales.

"The one brand that we did focus on pulled most, if not all, of the traffic from that e-mail because they were the focus and what we displayed to the consumer. In addition, many of the e-mails we sent out linked directly to that retailer's site," said Jason Moore, Internet marketing manager at Little Tikes. "If we were sending an e-mail on Wal-Mart, the effect on Toys 'R' Us and KB Toys was negative."

In contrast, executives found that the Little Tikes-branded e-mails, which referred customers to Little Tikes' site where they could choose various retailers' sites to buy from, performed much better. Little Tikes discovered "at least double-digit percentage growth," Moore said, when referring e-mail recipients to its site versus devoting one e-mail a month to a specific retailer.

Little Tikes still sends four e-mails a month, but now all of them follow this format rather than highlighting one retailer.

The company wants to use e-mail marketing tools further, such as segmenting its lists. Because Little Tikes sells a range of products, from small toys to large outdoor play sets, it wants to e-mail customers about the product lines in which they are most interested.

"We want to speak to mothers on the level that they would like to be spoken to and the areas that are most important to them," Moore said. "They are generally geared toward one area of our product lines."

Little Tikes also plans to integrate e-mail more with its offline channels soon. Already, it drives traffic from its print catalog to its Web site and toll-free number. And e-mails notify customers when new catalogs are sent. Also, Little Tikes tested an e-mail to drive traffic to one of its brick-and-mortar retailers this year.

"To be truly integrated, we need to support the offline channels as well as the online channels of retail and advertising," Moore said. To that end, Little Tikes will monitor offline ad campaigns "in flight" to determine when lifts occur in online traffic and sales.

Little Tikes developed its new strategy with e-mail software firm ExactTarget, Indianapolis.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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