Lessons from Toys“R”Us on How NOT to Do E-mail Marketing

On October 27, I ordered a baby shower gift from Toys“R”Us/Babies“R”Us. As of November 13, I have received 44 promotional e-mails from Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us combined.

That’s 44 e-mails in 17 days!

And here’s the kicker, I could swear that I unchecked the box on the order page that said to add me to their e-mail list. I could be wrong. I don’t always look that closely at those things. The box I’m thinking of could’ve said something else.

But c’mon! Any store or entity planning on sending two or more e-mails a day should really have a double opt-in feature.

Double opt-in e-mail, in case you don’t know, requires the e-mail marketer to send a request for confirmation to the potential subscriber. If that person then confirms he or she wants to subscribe, the e-mail address is added to the list.

Since I was shopping for a shower gift—which was obvious to them because I bought off a gift registry—and therefore was clearly not shopping for a kid of my own, maybe they should’ve asked me a few questions about what types of e-mails I might like to receive.

For example, since I don’t have kids and don’t plan to and I don’t have a desire to be a surrogate breast feeder for anyone else’s kids, I’m really not in the market for a breast pump. Look at what they sent me:

Subject line: Save Now on Two Great Breast Pumps by Medela!

E-mail from BabiesRUs about breast pumps on sale

“Keep the connection. Provide what’s best for your baby, even when you’re not there.” Um, again, I don’t have a baby.

You know what would’ve been really great? If Babies“R”Us instead used modern technology and marketing sense and sent me promotional messages based on items listed on my cousin’s gift registry.

Include messaging such as, “Now that the baby shower is over, be ready with a gift for the baby’s arrival! Save 20% on gift registry items today.”…or something like that.

The point is that, in this case, Babies“R”Us could’ve used data they already had to improve their marketing and enhance my shopping experience.

Opportunity lost. Now they’re just annoying me, and they’re lucky I will just unsubscribe rather than report them as spam.

Know your audience. For all advertising knowing your audience is a must, but for e-mail marketing (and mobile marketing too), knowing your audience’s wants, needs and interests are crucial.

Advertisers, remember this: In e-mail marketing and mobile marketing, you are intruding into a consumer’s personal space. Be polite and considerate. Act like you’re a guest in that person’s home.

Marketing like Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us is like bringing your uninvited German Shepherd to a host’s party and letting him shit all over the rugs.

That smell isn’t forgotten too easily…and you’ll never be invited back again.



  1. Liam Dempsey · November 30, 2011

    Hi Coreen,

    Few things irritate customers like a poorly managed email marketing campaign. The power of a functional and easy to use ‘unsubscribe’ feature is not to be underestimated.

    Thanks to your post, I shall consider myself forewarned about the hazards of shopping online from Toys “R” Us!

    • ctmarcom · November 30, 2011

      Hi Liam,
      Glad I could give you the heads up about Toys”R”Us. Such a shame that a large company like this can’t take a little time to set up a better system.

      Thanks for commenting!

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