Amazon Tripped Over their Boxes with their 2020 Toy Catalog

It began as a wonder to behold … online behemoth Amazon stood the marketing world on its head when they launched their first toy catalog in 2018, the same year other digital-first retailers like Wayfair launched catalogs in print. 

There’s no doubt these brands belong in print (Yes, Virginia, digital brands do need print catalogs), but Amazon’s efforts seem to have fallen short this year, with what looks like rookie mistakes.

“For the 2020 holiday season, Amazon made its largest push yet into direct mail with a huge (and expensive) toy catalog, which arrived in the homes of millions of Americans,” writes Polly Wong in Total Retail. “Based on an informal survey of our staff and partners, and a thorough analysis of the catalog itself, it’s abundantly clear that Amazon isn’t adhering to the best practices for direct mail that have been developed over the past century.”

Among the problems cited were:

  • Inaccurate targeting — Total Retail’s informal survey found single women with no kids reported getting the catalog (maybe Amazon’s going after the ‘favorite auntie’ demographic?), as well as families with kids in their 20s. At the same time, many families with young kids didn’t get a copy.
  • Poorly timed arrival date — Mid-November to early December is traditionally peak catalog response timing. Yet Amazon’s landed before Halloween, while parents were still trying to figure out how to home school their kiddos and socially distance while trick-or-treating.
  • Wrong size — at 92 pages, the Amazon toy catalog was, well, Amazonian. Yet according to Wong, that may have been a waste of resources.

    “Amazon’s catalog was huge: 92 pages with a perfect bind and loads of fun, but ultimately unnecessary frills in the form of stickers and coloring pages for kids. Even with Amazon’s unparalleled resources, this is likely a big waste when one considers the fact that the in-home date was ill-timed for a shorter sales cycle,” she writes.

If you’re going to the expense of using a powerful tool like a catalog — especially targeting a millennial audience — you need to do it right. While Amazon’s PrimeDay was surely a success, their direct mail strategy fell short this year.