November 10, 2010, 11:17 AM

Toys ‘R’ Us boosts its mobile efforts

The retailer adds scanners in stores so shoppers can redeem mobile coupons.

Lead Photo

Signs in Toys ‘R’ Us stores promote new text message program

Mobile is not a toy for Toys ‘R’ Us. And the retailer proved it Tuesday with two mobile moves that add up to a major investment.

Toys ‘R’ Us Inc., No. 37 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, today became only the second major national chain to add mobile bar code scanning capabilities to all its U.S. stores. All 847 Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us stores nationwide now enable shoppers to redeem coupons and electronic gift cards on their smartphones by presenting phones to cashiers to be scanned during checkout.

The Toys ‘R’ Us announcement follows a similar move by Target Corp. in May. Both retailers’ programs lean on optical bar code scanners, which most retailers do not have, that can scan conventional and two-dimensional bar codes displayed on the screen of a mobile device. Standard bar code scanners cannot read codes on phones because they use lasers, which bounce off of mobile phone screens. Optical scanners use light receptors, not lasers, and can thus read codes off of any surface.

“Mobile phones are an integral part of busy moms’ and dads’ lifestyles, and we are always looking for exciting new ways to engage and present them with the most streamlined, on-the-go shopping solutions,” says Prama Bhatt, vice president, general manager, U.S. e-commerce, for Toys ‘R’ Us. “Expanding our mobile offerings to include coupon bar code scanning allows us to build stronger relationships with our customers while providing added convenience.”

Shoppers on the retailer’s e-mail marketing lists will soon begin to receive mobile-enabled coupons, Toys ‘R’ Us says. When the mobile version of an e-mail is displayed on a smartphone, print coupons are converted into an easily readable format, which can be scanned in-store from the shopper’s phone screen. Shoppers can sign up for e-mail messages at or by clicking E-mail Sign Up on the top navigation bar.

Additionally, as part of the bar code scanning update, shoppers who receive electronic gift cards can opt to have their gift card bar code sent to them via e-mail. Shoppers can then open the e-mail and show the bar code on their mobile phone to a cashier who then scans it to redeem the card in-store.

In a second mobile announcement, Toys ‘R’ Us has launched ‘R’ Mobile Messaging, a free, opt-in service that delivers notifications and offers to mobile phones. Shoppers text “TOYS” and/or “BABIES” to the retailer’s telecommunications short code, 30364, or enter their mobile number on or, to sign up for the service.

Toys ‘R’ Us plans to market ‘R’ Mobile Messaging via radio, print and the web, and with in-store signs that offer instructions on how to become a subscriber. All the signs will feature a special logo—a backwards R drawn to represent the ringing of a phone. and first entered m-commerce in 2009 with individual m-commerce sites. The retailer also offers Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us apps for the BlackBerry and the iPhone. Earlier this month, Toys ‘R’ Us launched a Christmas marketing campaign using Apple Inc.’s iPad tablet computer. It created two iPad apps for its annual Great Big Christmas Book. A children’s version lets kids browse the pages of the book sans prices, and drag items they want into a virtual gift box to create a wish list for parents. An adult version shows parents their children’s picks and pricing information and enables them to e-mail wish lists to friends and family.

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