COVID-19 Marketing Strategies for Toy and Hobby Brands

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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, people are trying to find more ways to entertain themselves at home. This comes with increased opportunities for the toys and hobbies industry to connect with current and new customers, but it also can be challenging to manage this demand and create a strategy for long-term success.

This guide discusses using Klaviyo to reach your audience during and after the coronavirus, running through best practices and examples from other toys and hobbies businesses.

Best Practices for the Toys and Hobbies Industry

Communicate via Your Ecommerce Store

Many toys and hobbies brands are experiencing high demand for at-home products. Many popular items, such as arts and crafts supplies, video and board games, and puzzles, have been out of stock or experiencing shipping delays.

If this is the case for you, it is best to clearly communicate this with customers. Indicate if a product is not available and (if possible) when a customer can expect it to be back in stock. If you are experiencing shipping delays, it is a good idea to have a banner displayed on your site or note on the product or checkout page explaining that it may take extra time for orders to arrive. This way, when someone becomes a customer, they will know what to expect from your brand and have a more positive experience, which increases their likelihood of returning in the future.

Segment Similar Subscribers

Segmentation allows you to personalize your communication in order to better connect with your subscribers. This is particularly helpful for toys and hobbies, as certain products are suitable for specific age ranges, interest groups, or genders.

Below are examples of segments that may be helpful:

  • Preference (art, music, sewing, etc.)
  • VIP
  • Window shoppers
  • COVID-19 new customers
  • Location
  • Predictive analytics

You may also want to redefine your engagement criteria during this time. Depending on how things have changed for your business since the coronavirus, consider extending the time frame for who counts as engaged (and tighten the one for unengaged) to cast a wider net for your COVID-19 communications. If you decide to change the criteria, set a reminder to change them back once things begin returning to normal.


If you run a shop that caters to multiple interests or hobbies, segment customers by their preferences. For instance, you can group people who have purchased art supplies separate from those who have purchased knitting supplies. Then, you can set up campaigns or flows targeting that are specific to the segment’s interest.

Similarly, if you run a toy or game shop, you can segment by franchises or types of toys, video games, board games, etc.

Below is an example of this type of segment.


Segmenting by preference can help you cross-sell new and relevant products or even to build communities around a certain hobby.


You may already have a VIP segment in place. If that’s the case, re-examine the current definition to account for the effect of coronavirus.

If you don’t have a VIP segment, now is a good time to create one. Your VIPs are your brand enthusiasts and can help spread the word about your business. They are also an excellent resource if you want feedback or reviews. For hobbies, they can be experts who provide advice that you use to help newcomers. With their help, you can create content that knocks down potential roadblocks or provides best practices and tips. This can help those who are just picking up a hobby to continue after COVID-19 restrictions lift.

VIP segments are often defined by purchase frequency (as shown below) or amount spent. You can also include conditions for whether or not someone engages with your emails or is in a certain list. For more details, check out this Guide to Running a VIP Program.


Window Shoppers

Another tool is you have in your marketing toolkit is the ability to target online window shoppers. Using Klaviyo, you can create a segment of those who have looked at a product, been on your site, or opened or clicked an email, but have not yet purchased. Then, target these potential customers with forms with discounts or campaigns featuring the items they viewed.


For now, set the time frame to be after and insert the date when coronavirus began to affect your business. When its effect begins to taper off, you can switch this to in the last 30 days.

You can also set up a browse abandonment flow, triggered by the Viewed Product metric, to automatically touch base with these profiles.

COVID-19 New Customers

You may want to create a segment of those who recently became customers. With more people seeking out sources of entertainment, you can target these customers differently than you would normally. It’s important to nurture new customers with helpful content and resources so that they have an easy time adapting to the interest or hobby. This will make your brand feel more human during this difficult time.


Note that you might want to change the engagement time frame of your conditions depending on where in the world you are and where your customers are, as the coronavirus has affected different areas at different times.

Depending on if your business caters to more than one type of hobby, create segments of COVID-19 new customers separated by hobby.


Regardless of whether you have a brick-and-mortar store or are based solely online, location-based segments may prove helpful. If you have a physical location (or even multiple locations), this segment can keep your community up to date on the latest information about your business (e.g., reopening date, altered hours, special offers, etc.) as well as ways to help the local community.

The example below groups subscribers who are in close proximity to Boston, MA. You can use this segment to send messages that contain location-specific information, such as seasonal changes or weather, local meetups, or the impact of the coronavirus on that area.


Another type segment is grouping customers based on which physical store they visited. You could use a segment similar to the one above but narrow the mile radius. How many miles to use depends on several factors, including how close your physical stores are, how rural or urban the area is, etc.

Alternatively, you can post different QR codes in each of your stores and have them link to separate signup forms. When someone uses a code to sign up, they will be tagged with a profile property, and you’ll know where they found the QR code.


Predictive Analytics

Klaviyo’s predictive analytics features estimate a customer’s lifetime value, gender, and expected date of next order. With customer lifetime value (CLV) data, you can target high- and low-CLV customers differently, changing what kind of offers you provide to each group while they are engaged. In addition, CLV may affect the amount of effort you put in to win a customer back. For example, you may offer high-CLV lapsed customers more of a discount than those with a low CLV.


Regarding predicted gender, toys in particular are often marketed to either boys or girls. It can be good to occasionally send messages that showcase both to your general audience. However, having gender-specific segments can be an efficient way to highlight products that you think one group might be interested in. You can also alter your messaging or images around hobbies based on gender in order to market them more effectively.

The expected date of next order data is also useful, as it allows you to estimate when a customer will make their next purchase. You can touch base with customers who have gone past this date by giving them offers or discounts. This can increase your bond with customers and encourage their hobby or interest. Keep in mind that this date may shift during the coronavirus, so be empathetic during your communications.

Use Forms to Gather Info and Drive Profit

With forms, you can not only gather subscribes, but also gain insight into your audience and show those on your website relevant information.

Ask for and Provide Information

One example is a form that asks for someone’s experience with a hobby or toy. For the first, ask both experienced enthusiasts and newcomers in a certain hobby about:

  • Why they first became interested
  • What they enjoy most
  • What challenges they faced (either when they first started or throughout their time)
  • What tool, book, tip, etc. was particularly helpful
  • What was a recent project they worked on

Knowing the answers to these questions now can inform your marketing strategies in the future. In addition, they can help you guide customers toward the content they most need at different experience levels and stages in their customer lifecycle via your owned channels. However, you should not ask all of these questions on a single form. Instead, have a specific goal in mind for each form.

You can use the segments you built to target a form to display only to certain customers. For instance, you may want to ask your engaged subscribers and VIPs to share their recommendations, as they are likely not only brand enthusiasts but also fairly experienced. image5.png

You can also use forms to keep customers in-the-know about the coronavirus’ impact on your business. For example, you can alert them about store closings, altered hours, etc. You can also direct them to another page that contains more information about COVID-19.


Buying Guide

One of the biggest benefits of shopping in-store is that customers can discuss the product with an employee. They can get your team’s advice, tips, and recommendations. While there is plenty of information available online, it can be difficult and time consuming to wade through.

With a signup form, you can solve this problem for customers by creating a buying guide. You can create this via Klaviyo forms or by using a third-party product, such as Typeform. To do so in Klaviyo, simply create a full-page form with the questions you’d like to ask and link it to a list (e.g., a buying guide list). Then, set up a flow to send curated content based on someone’s answers.


Target this form to a segment of subscribers who have previously visited your site but have not yet placed an order. You could also try targeting it to those who have abandoned a cart.

High and Low CLV

Using predictive analytics segments, you can target forms, and thus offer different discounts, based on a customer’s lifetime value. For instance, you can offer low-CLV customers a slightly higher discount in order to encourage more spending up front, as they are either less likely to come back or more likely to purchase lower-priced items. For high-CLV customers, you may want to offer a lower discount at this time or even replace the discount with something else of value, such as insight into an upcoming collection.


This setup can be good during and after the coronavirus epidemic. It incentivizes your thrifty shoppers to purchase; at the same time, having less of a discount for high-CLV customers means you will face less of a profit loss from your higher and more frequent spenders while still encouraging these loyal customers to spend again.

Send Relevant Campaigns

Toys and hobbies have always been something that people bond over. They can be a conversation-starter with a stranger or familiar topic with a friend. It’s important to keep this community aspect in mind during the coronavirus. In addition, keep your correspondences empathetic, understanding, and helpful.

You may want to encourage subscribers to talk with each other by linking to group pages. Alternatively, you could provide resources that they’ll find useful or offer more discounts than you would normally, particularly for indoor products. You may even send updates to subscribers to keep them informed about the coronavirus, your company, or your community. Another option is to delight customers with games or activities they can do while at home. Campaigns like these can show your audience the human behind your brand to create a long-lasting relationship between you and your customers.

Connect with Customers

When connecting with customers, it’s important to be transparent about any problems you’re facing and set the right expectations for what’s going to happen next. It’s also important to keep all of your subscribers informed, so send these updates to all of your contacts (e.g., to your main newsletter list). One example from Galison is shown below.


Another example, this one from Little Skein in the Big Wool, takes a personal approach, with the owner writing a letter to her customers. She explains the impact the coronavirus has had on her, shares an article that has helped her, and details how her company is responding to the pandemic. You can see the first part of this message below.


A third option is to encourage customer-to-customer connection. For example, promote virtual game nights focusing on video games, board games, or quizzes/trivia. This can help customers who are feeling isolated as well as strengthen the community around your brand.

Offers and Discounts by Preference

If you’ve set up segments of those with the same preferences, you can send campaigns showing off products in that area with special discounts. For example, if you have any new arts and craft supplies, or even ones you want to sell off, you can send a campaign showing only arts and crafts products to those in the matching segment and offer a discount. Follow this with another campaign to your general list (excluding the arts and crafts segment that you sent to) with a slightly higher discount and showing more variety.

Below is an example of the latter campaign from The Woolery.


Engage Customers

The example from the Woolery also shows that you can engage customers by creating content that delights. While not shown in the email, the Woolery created a new quiz to help take the crisis off of people’s minds. Other options include creating crossword, connect-the-dot, or word search puzzles. You can even include secret coupon codes for those who finish in order to have them re-engage with your site.

Educate Your Audience

Another way to keep your audience engaged is by creating educational content. Inform your audience about the history or fun facts for a toy or hobby. You can design easy experiments around a product to encourage learning, or feature any STEM toys that you have.

Educational campaigns can also be simple how-tos to encourage someone to try something new. For example, you could try targeting a segment of puzzle enthusiasts with material for easy arts and crafts projects or model kits.

Update Your Flows

Flows make it simple to keep up with customers throughout their journey with your brand. During the coronavirus, we recommend keeping many of your original flows but adding a conditional split, selecting the Random sample option from the dropdown. The existing content will appear on the Yes path, so set the split to 0%. On the No path, add in your COVID-19 content. This ensures that for the time being, people only receive the coronavirus content.

When things go back to normal, you can simply change the percent from 0 to 100%, or delete the path with the coronavirus content. Regardless of which option you go for, it’s helpful to indicate which emails are for COVID-19, so that you don’t accidentally continue sending them.

Though you can copy much of your existing content, it’s important to replace any irrelevant information, such as in-store offerings and in-person meetups, with virtual options. Also, make sure your delivery and shipping timeframes are up to date to set the right customer expectations and to include more resources for beginners or first-time shoppers.

Flows you may want to update include:

  • Welcome series
  • Abandoned cart
  • Browse abandonment
  • Buying guide
  • Cross-sell
  • Post-purchase/thank you
  • Winback/Sunset
  • Replenishment
  • Transactional
  • Birthday or anniversary

Analyze the Results

After updating your forms, segments, campaigns, and flows for COVID-19, it’s important to analyze their performance. For instance, review your forms’ conversion rates, and also take a look at your campaign and flow deliverability rates, including open, click, spam, and bounce.

As an example, you can compare your open rates to those shown in the graph below, which is based on Klaviyo data. This graph shows the average open rates for businesses in the toys and hobby industry in 2019 and 2020 during months when the coronavirus was prevalent. You can see that, overall, there was an increase in open rates.


If some campaign and flow messages do better than others, try to replicate what’s working in your other messages.


While the coronavirus and the danger it poses has no definitive end date, when it begins to abate, you can use the information you learned during this time to inform your future marketing efforts. You will also want to slowly transition your communications as restrictions start to lift.

To make this process easier for your audience, keep them up to date with what’s happening with your brand. Let them know when you’ll be reopening any brick-and-mortar stores, what the hours will be, what changes you’ll make to keep the community safe, and what to expect from your brand.

Also, update your forms, flows, and segments to stay relevant. For instance, you may want to switch your segment conditions to what they were before COVID-19 and remove content related to it from your flows and forms.

Lastly, use the profile properties and new segments you gained during this time to your advantage. Consider targeting the segment of COVID-19 new subscribers with personalized guides via flows or campaigns on how to further their interest or hobby Alternatively, create new segments based on what their shopping behavior is like post-coronavirus.

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