Case Study

Understanding Seasonal Shopping, and Making Insights Actionable


With the shuttering of Toys ‘R Us, the holiday shopping landscape changed drastically. Parents had to find new places to shop, and brands had to work overtime to meet changing needs. A major toy manufacturer wanted to satisfy and delight parents in this new environment, but they knew they first had to understand the “boots on the ground” holiday shopping journey from a parent’s perspective.

To orient the toy manufacturer to the new landscape, C+R developed a multimodal research approach comprised of self-guided shopping missions using digital camera recordings and follow-up webcam interviews. 


Holiday Shopping in a Post-Toys ‘R Us World

A major toy manufacturer needed a foundational understanding of the brick-and-mortar holiday shopping marketplace now that the former major player, Toys ‘R Us, was closed for business. To get a grasp on this new landscape, the brand needed to understand all elements of alternative in-store experiences, including:

  • Pathways
  • Time spent shopping
  • Role of signage
  • Importance of displays
  • Role of licensed properties and characters
  • Triggers to purchase
  • Frustrations
  • Delighters


Go-Pro Camera Shopper Missions and Webcam Interviews

C+R designed a two-phase approach to the shopper journey. First, parent shoppers were outfitted with Go-Pro cameras and sent on natural shopping missions to browse as they normally would during the holiday season. They were asked to narrate what caught their attention along their pathway through the stores. 

Then, individual discussion guides were developed for each shopper based on their specific journeys through the stores. C+R’s moderators identified places where shoppers paused, things they breezed past, and items that made it into their carts.

Next, each parent participated in a live online webcam interview. During interviews, moderators played back video snippets to shoppers and probed about motivations behind journey behaviors. Respondents were asked to recall what they were thinking and how they reacted to products, displays, and signage.

The result

A Playbook for Delighting Parent Shoppers

We learned that when Toys ‘R Us was in business, a family trip to the mall often included a stop to play with toys, and maybe “sneak-buy” a gift when children weren’t looking. It was a discrete, focused experience. Today’s brick + mortar toy shopping is diluted with other category purchases. 

In fact, when families get deeper into mass retailers’ stores, the presence of toys can become a nuisance if kids want to play with items or beg for what they see; because toy shopping wasn’t the main purpose of the trip, the presence of toys becomes a hindrance to purchasing the items parents came to buy.

We can’t reveal the conversion strategies our research uncovered; those are industry secrets. But, suffice it to say, the pathway through various departments, the presence of toy displays in each of them, and the shoppers’ (and children’s) reactions to each shed a lot of light on how to improve the experience for those who want to receive gifts and those who want to give them.

The insights generated by C+R’s research were turned into a highly stylized “Playbook” for cross-functional team members to use as they ideate how to apply findings for subsequent years and energize the next seasonal wave of shopping. 

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