December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Brainiacs at SmarterKids

Shopping for toys is hard enough as a parent, but shopping for educational toys requires some guidance., the leading educational toy retailer online, has it-the company is not only selling smarter toys for kids, it’s using smarter toys for its business. The company uses extensive personalization software applications to help shoppers find the right toy for a child based on a variety of parameters: age, interest, topic and testing level, among others. But as Executive Vice President Al Noyes says, “We only use what you tell us to use.”

Shoppers can create web pages built around their children’s needs and interests. This allows the site to make toy recommendations based on how the parents set up the personalized web page. A team of teachers and other toy evaluators works in conjunction with a patented system for matching toys with selected parameters. also has a live chat feature for immediate customer service help. The result is a comprehensive web site dedicated to helping parents help their kids learn. Chock full of content, the site boasts studies, educational information and parenting tips that give users more reasons to visit than just to buy toys-a move that will help sustain its audience even during non-peak seasons, backing Noyes’ claim that, unlike Christmas, education is a
year-round thing.

Gomez Advisors ranks as the top educational toy site and number three among all toy sites. Barrett Ladd, senior retail analyst, says the company does a great job differentiating itself. “It is so focused on education and provides excellent tools, such as the new State Test Prep Center, Grandparents Center and numerous activities, advice and education tools,” Ladd says. “And it has leveraged personalization-more than 25% of consumers created a personalized store, which creates loyalty, repeat visits and strong relationships.”

Needham, Mass.

Monthly visitors: 1.4 million

Sales: $1.51 million Q3

Went live: November 1998

Design by: In-house & Frye

OS: Windows 2000

E-C Software: Microsoft

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