Toys and eCommerce: Adapting the Past to Win for the Future

Chuck Linden is the founder and principal of Candela Growth Partners; an independent strategic advisory focused on go-to-market strategies that accelerate digital commerce.
Before founding Candela Growth Partners, Chuck was EVP, Global Business Development for Crayola LLC, where he led the company’s growth across a wide range of geographies, business models, and consumer spaces. Chuck can be reached at


If anyone left in the toy business that didn’t believe eCommerce was a required skill, 2020 should have put the issue to rest.  Analytics provider IRi reported US toy sales up almost 20% through the first three quarters, and while Q4 and final 2020 numbers are still unpublished, it’s a safe bet that eCommerce once again captured the lion’s share of the growth.

eCommerce is already a significant share of some toy businesses, but the toy industry as a whole still has far to go to adapt to this new consumer reality fully. Whether a global brand, local specialty retailer, or anyone in between, eCommerce, along with digital marketing, is the ‘must-have’ capability for the next decade.  2021 will see winners further separate themselves, while others are rushing to catch-up, or are stuck in old models and risk being left behind.

The good news is that the toy business has always been led by great product that excites consumers and merchandising that moves them to act. eCommerce hasn’t changed that fundamental truth. It merely switches the go-to-market models that the industry has relied on for decades.

Successful teams will have the fluency to weigh critical decisions using proven experience adapted for new digital realities as eCommerce moves from competitive advantage to mainstream practice. Understanding the math, learning the language, and rapid experimentation is the cost of entry.

Whether selling thru Amazon, an omni-retailer, or DTC, success comes down to a simple formula:

traffic X conversion rate X order value

While the sheer amount of data can be overwhelming, eCommerce’s core simplicity is that it’s just math. Every choice ultimately moves one (or more) of these three levers. Investments become quantifiable as data demonstrates how choices affect the complex algorithms underneath this simple formula.

Content, packaging, placement, and display become even more critical on-line, but the language of eCommerce sometimes gets in the way of understanding. The underlying concepts are the same, but with new names like product detail pages, variations, or retailer media – just to name a few. Learning the new terms and anchoring them on concepts that the industry knows very well can help break down the language barrier and allow teams to leverage the organization’s years of experience in new ways.

The tactics, however, have become far more complex as the consumer landscape has evolved. Consumers frequently view products first on a 2” screen, discover content via a streaming video, and place orders from their couch, car, or kitchen table. And the ways to do all of it are continually evolving.

eCommerce brings dynamic new methods to communicate, deliver, and profit, while new business models emerge. Organizations are well served to find what works through vigorous testing and learning plans that support this digital transformation across all business elements.

When the pandemic ends, the toy category will adjust, and eCommerce will continue to expand. Building a long-term space in the industry means adapting proven practices to fit the new commerce realities.

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