Brand Battle: Target Vs. Toys 'R' Us | Street Fight


Toy Titans Battle for Holiday Shoppers in Seasonal Skirmish

Families unite this time of year, to the sound of falling leaves, chilly blustery days, and the cry of all bargain shoppers: “DOORBUSTERS!” Every fall, brands begin preparing special deals for the mother of all annual sales: Black Friday. Millions of kids under the age of 12 will be hoping for a special toy or game or doll as the holidays approach, and discerning parents who are scheming for savings are on the prowl. Apart from electronics, toys are one of the top targeted purchases on Black Friday, and two brands are leading the pack. Maintaining a strong local presence is no easy task amid an explosion of ways in which consumers connect with businesses: search, listings, reviews, online ads, bookings, payments and more.

The Players

Retailers Target and Toys ‘R’ Us hit the ground running in this month’s Brand Battle, which stacked up branding strategies for the two retailers and how they might be making extra sales with this season’s Black Friday deals. Both brands have lots of experience in location branding—Target is the second largest discount retailer in the country with more than 100 years of history and Toys ‘R’ Us is a widely-known household name for toys and kid-friendly products.

Brandify studied the companies’ store locations using its proprietary technology across key areas of local presence management. Taking 1,781 Target locations and 897 Toys ‘R’ Us locations, Brandify analyzed the two brands’ current local marketing strategies and identified missed opportunities in preparation for the holiday season. The final scores reflect the decades of customer care that these brands have invested in, with both scoring higher than 600 out of a possible 850.

Though Toys ‘R’ Us might have enjoyed an edge by appealing customers with its toy-specific specialized product focus, Target held the final advantage—possibly by attracting a wider range of holiday shoppers with a huge selection of products in a variety of departments. In the end, Target’s focus on engagement, plus shrewd local SEO and local advertising plans, won this month’s Brand Battle by 75 points.

The Final Scores

Target: 680                     Toys ‘R’ Us: 605

Battle Rounds: Data Quality | Local SEO | Reviews | Local Ads | Engagement


The Battle

Every holiday, shoppers balance the need for sweet holiday savings and the need to find the perfect kid’s gift—with just a few hours to search.


Battle round: Data Quality

This season, the smartest shoppers will use Yelp—and brands should too!

The second that stores begin rolling out jingle bells, garlands and tree decorations, shoppers start looking for savings. This year, they’re extremely likely to be searching for locations “near me,” and brands must ensure those potential customers can find the local storefront. Accurate and complete location data is an important marketing strategy that every brand should be paying close attention to.

Target’s data quality assessment started off well, with only 16% of the company’s locations showing address problems on Google, compared to 31% of Toys ‘R’ Us locations. Across all search engines, 11% of Toys ‘R’ Us locations were not found, and on Yelp 27% of locations were not claimed. Toys ‘R’ Us was gaining on the competition in this data quality round, but Brandify found that 99% of Target locations were not claimed on Yelp.

Yelp is popular with customers searching for local retail options, and more shoppers are looking for holiday deals on the go, on their mobile devices. Target is leaving too many opportunities on the table with this oversight. Luckily, Target’s overall name, address, and phone number (NAP) data helped the discount retailer win the data quality round by just five points—90 to Toys ‘R’ Us’s score of 85.

Winner: Target

*Locations that were “not found” were not returned in any search results. Locations that were “not claimed” were returned in search results, but data about the location such as phone number and address could be incorrect or missing.


Battle round: Local SEO

Times have changed since Turbo Man, and local-mobile searches are now what drive customers to brands.

Brands must balance their local web pages, locator, its main corporate website, and on-page factors for a strong local SEO game plan. Picture an adorably frantic dad searching desperately for a Turbo Man action figure, and these days, he isn’t making lots of disposable income. Dad needs a sweet deal, and he’s likely using local—and often mobile—search to find one. Target knows this, and shows its savvy by making sure that its local store will pop up in search results. Almost 90% of Target locations show up in the first, second or third spot on SERPs for searches of “Black Friday toy sale,” compared to about 80% of Toys ‘R’ Us locations.

In the second close round comparing the two brands’ approaches to local SEO, Target again beat Toys ‘R’ Us, this time by fifteen points, 45 to 30. Toys ‘R’ Us put up a fight in Brandify’s analysis of where it ranked on search engine results pages (SERPs), and managed to win that area by one point, 13 to 12. But Target again outperformed in other areas, including its website, locator and individual local pages.

On Google and Bing, 33% of Toys ‘R’ Us locations don’t show up at all on SERPs for keyword terms “Black Friday toy sale” and “toy sale.” Toys ‘R’ Us performed slightly better with search results for the non-seasonal term “toys,” but Target still came out on top with 78% of its locations showing up in the first, second or third spot on SERPs, compared to Toys ‘R’ Us’ locations at 68% on Google.

Target’s success here is telling of its commitment to leading toy sales in this year’s holiday shopping data, especially since toys are one of more than a dozen departments that many locations offer. Target is clearly making an effort to invest time and resources into giving local visibility to this one department.

Winner: Target


Battle round: Reviews

Self-educating, kid-loving shoppers look to reviews to help them decide which local stores to patronize.

The Reviews battle round: The quest for the Five Star Review. Holiday shoppers, already engaging on so many other levels in real life and online, are more likely to leave bad reviews if they have a bad experience than a positive one. Doubling the value of reviews is the rating system: stars are a super easy, fast reference point that can reach even illiterate toy-shoppers (kids, of course!).

Toys ‘R’ Us makes a notable effort to gain good reviews from customers. In its Brandify analysis of more than 10,000 reviews targeting seasonal, toy-related keywords from April 1 through October, Brandify found that almost 55% of Toys ‘R’ Us’ reviews received four or five stars, and overall 52% of reviews were positive.

But Target again nosed ahead, gaining 60% of four or five star reviews, and overall, 63% of Target store reviews were positive. Reviews are one of the most important research points that consumers look for when researching what products to buy and what budget they should set. Target’s understanding of that, along with efforts to satisfy customers, is paying off in its branding success. Target has 71% positive sentiment from customers for the keyword “toys”—a solid lead on Toys ‘R’ Us, which has only 57% positive sentiment for the same keyword.

“Like the layout of this target better than others I’ve been to. One added bonus is that this target is near staples so it’s the only place I’ll need for school supplies. Also near Michaels, Barnes and Noble, Payless and other stores. Honestly a better place to buy toys then Toys R Us. Decent items. Pizza Hut and Starbucks inside also another bonus. “

— 5-star review on Target on Bing. June 2016.

Finally, Target crossed the finish line first in the reviews round with a score of 14. 6 compared to Toys ‘R’ Us’s score of 9.6—Target most certainly given an extra boost by its overall sentiment score, which was five times that of Toys ‘R’ Us.

Winner: Target


Battle round: Local Ads

One of life’s first lessons: Don’t skip steps (specifically: the local ad step).

Local advertising is a purposeful 21st century focal point that zealous marketers know is an essential budget item for branding plans, and both brands would do well to update their local plans. The Local Ads round of this Brand Battle showed a sad trend of neglect. Target has local pages, but the brand is not leveraging them with links from local advertisements.  Toys ‘R’ Us does not have individual store local pages or use any local advertising at all, and neither brand is using location extension options in general advertising.

Even without a results-driven dose of local ad targeting, Target continued its ability to outpace its closest competitor. General advertising that does not specifically target local customers can still reach shoppers via email, social media and television, and Toys ‘R’ Us did well here with results for more generic keywords.

However, the fact of the matter is Target spends more budget on advertising online—$1 million across desktop and mobile, according to SEMrush. Toys ‘R’ Us spends almost $50,000 monthly for its search ad campaigns on desktop and mobile. Target bested the toy niche retailer again with almost 700,000 traffic hits on mobile via ads. Target’s overall score in the Local Ads round was 16, nearly double Toys ‘R’ Us’ score of 9.

Winner: Target


Battle round: Engagement

One brand’s extraordinarily loyal customer base reflects sound engagement policies.

In the final battle round, Target zoomed past Toys ‘R’ Us with a score of 37 to Toys ‘R’ Us’ score of 8. Social media is a great, fun place to engage with customers, suggesting it might be an easy win. But Target performed decidedly better in both local social engagement and in corporate social engagement, likely drawing from its already vast loyal consumer base.

Target has almost twice as many check-ins than Toys ‘R’ Us locations on Facebook and Foursquare: 2.7 million compared to 1.3 million. Per location, Target sees an average of 376 check-ins versus 190 for Toys ‘R’ Us, a glimpse at the toy retailer’s stale approach to engaging with customers. A careful assessment of brand strategy for interacting with the customer base across different social media platforms is needed here to increase visibility and reach.

While Target had a low number of local social media posts in the period analyzed, its reach and amplification was still four times that of Toys ‘R’ Us.

Winner: Target


Brand Battle Winner: Target


Brandify’s Recommendations for Toys ‘R’ Us

  1. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ADVERTISING! Toys ‘R’ Us is missing out on mobile paid traffic, and given its specialized focus in sale items, it must use advertising to attract customers who might already be going to a general retailer such as Target. To gain on the competition, the brand should invest more in both mobile and desktop advertising, and location extension ads, especially for Google Maps.
  2. CLAIM LOCAL PAGES: With no local pages, the Toys ‘R’ Us brand success is suffering both from poor data quality and uninspiring local SEO. Local visibility to consumers is low for this brand, and with 13% unclaimed locations on Facebook and 32% unclaimed on Foursquare, Toys ‘R’ Us has lots of work to do.
  3. UPDATE LOCATION DATA: To reach customers in ways that works for them, Toys ‘R’ Us must start by improving its store location data quality on Google and Bing. Currently, 31% of the brand’s locations on Google have the wrong address and 29% of locations on Bing have the wrong address.
  4. GAIN VISIBILITY WITH LOCAL SEO: With no local pages, Toys ‘R’ Us has fallen behind Target on its local SEO visibility. The best options for improving this is to start with implementing seasonal sales keywords into the brand’s webpages – local and corporate.


Brandify’s Recommendations for Target

  1. DON’T BE A GRINCH TO YELP! Target’s marketing data shows that the brand has 99% unclaimed almost none of its locations on Yelp, an essential local tool.
  2. DOUBLE DOWN ON STRENGTHS: Target’s success in engaging with its already devoted customers could benefit from more frequent local social media posts and a closer attention to poor reviews, especially during the holidays.  


The battle was scored using Brandify’s Social Data Matching (SDM) technology with data from various channels,* including Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare. Data was entered into the Brandify analytics engine to test the two companies’ local digital marketing footprint to determine a final Brandscore for each. The Brandscore is calculated with an algorithm consisting of more than 250 variables over 5 core location-based areas: Data Quality, Local SEO, Reviews, Social Engagement, and Local Advertising.

Street Fight and Brandify will publish a new Brand Battle each month.

*Other channel sources included in this analysis: Yellow Pages, MerchantCircle, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

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About BrandifyBrandify-Logo

Brandify is transforming the way businesses connect to consumers by leveraging location technology and offering unrivaled personal service. Brandify has helped hundreds of brands understand and improve their local presence. Current and past clients include True Value, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Applebee’s, Black & Decker, and more. For more information about Brandify, go to