UK-based The Entertainer, which sells online at, also increased email open rates by 200% using vendor SmartFocus.

At U.K.-based toy retailer The Entertainer, web sales are surging, says Rob Wood, The Entertainer’s head of online.

Sales via its e-commerce site have tripled over the past three years and account for 15% of total sales, Wood says. The retailer, which operates about 130 stores, began selling online at in 1999.

But Wood and his team knew there was more potential in web sales. Particularly, Wood wanted to increase and hone personalized emails to drive online sales “Almost all our email campaigns were manual and it would take a couple weeks to build a targeted email campaign,” Woods says. What’s more, when The Entertainer did customize emails, it typically focused on promotions. “It was all very price focused,” Wood says.

About 18 months ago, The Entertainer began using vendor SmartFocus to enable it to more quickly personalize the as many as three weekly emails it sends to its list of about 1 million shoppers. It also began using SmartFocus to personalize the home page of based on what the retailer knew about each visitor. Since using SmartFocus, The Entertainer has increased its email revenue 300% and increased email open rates by 200%. Mobile sales also have grown 120% and return shoppers are up 60%, Wood says. The site’s average order value also has “significantly increased,” Wood adds.

With the help of SmartFocus, The Entertainer set up about 12 brand or topic categories such as Star Wars or Legos. The Entertainer then sends targeted emails to consumers who have shown they may like one of the brand topics. The targeted emails, for example, might recommend a new product from Star Wars or announce a promotion related to the item. In addition to sending the shopper a targeted email, the SmartFocus system can recognize a shopper and her interests either via a cookie or the link she clicked in an email to navigate to the site and can then change the top banners on the home page to display relevant brands and products.


For example, if the retailer’s home page at the moment is focused on its Penny Sale where shoppers can buy one item and get a second for a penny, but it recognizes a Star Wars fan, it includes a Star Wars banner at the top of the home page, Wood says. The Entertainer created banners for each of the dozen brand categories it also uses for email segmentation, Wood says.

Through SmartFocus, The Entertainer also can dynamically change an email’s content so if a product sells out—a common occurrence over the holidays—an email will adapt when opened to promote a different, in-stock product to the shopper.

“Starting this time of year toys are selling very quickly,” Wood says. “[The toy industry] is almost designed for things to sell out. The industry promotes hot products that are hard to get your hands on.” Rather than frustrate a shopper by promoting an out-of-stock item, SmartFocus conducts a live inventory search when a customer opens an email. If the original item is sold out, it swaps that product for a similar one.

The Entertainer has also found success using purchasing timing to decide when to send emails to customers who buy just a few times a year. The retailer looks at infrequent past shoppers in its email database. It then sends emails around the same time of year a customer last made a purchase. “Shoppers aren’t always buying for their own children,” Wood says. “They might be buying a birthday gift for a friend of family member.”

Personalization is doubling sales among targeted customers, Wood says. “Once we collect data about a customer and can start using it to personalize messages and target to customers, those who get personalized messages spend about two times as much per year as other shoppers,” he says.


SmartFocus charges The Entertainer a monthly fee based on the number of emails it sends, Wood says. The system took about three months to set up and, in addition to helping The Entertainer generate more revenue, the service is saving time. “It used to take a day just to set up a basic email campaign,” Wood says. “Now we can set up three [targeted] email campaigns a day and it’s not even a full-time job.”