The highs and lows of Target’s Toy book

Last week I reviewed Amazon’s Holiday Wish Book and gave it some well-deserved praise. Target’s toy catalog came in the mail over the weekend, and I am eager to discuss how it stacks up against Amazon. 

 So Let’s Dive In –


Image Credit: Target

The cover is a stark deviation from Amazons’ more subtle wintry theme. Bullseye, Target’s mascot, is front and center, surrounded by toys. There is also a nice 25% toy or kid’s book advertisement in the lower corner for Target’s Circle app. If you are unfamiliar with Target’s app, it allows customers to earn points towards future discounts and provides access to deals and additional savings. For more information, go here.  

Target’s mailer is roughly the same number of pages as Amazons’ and is a slightly larger square shape. If you remember from last week’s Amazon’s Post, I mentioned that Amazon’s pages are weighted and durable. This is not the case with Target’s book. These pages are thin and tear easily; think holiday catalogs of old. However, I will admit that a covered littered with toys is probably more appealing to young children than Amazon’s cute wintry forest animals.


Like Amazon, Target also dedicated the first initial pages to a Top Toys list. The inside cover features a block on Target’s Toy for Tots program with a corresponding web link. The opposite page reminds consumers to again check at the Circle app for a hefty 25% off coupon. Don’t get too excited; there are several brand exclusions.

Image Credit: Target

After Top Toys comes Bullseye’s Top Reads, a nice deviation from Amazon’s mailer, which only featured a small section towards the end of its catalog to books and reading. Inclusion and diversity have dominated social movements in 2020, and marketers are taking notice. Target highlights four book titles about empathy and inclusion in the middle of the spread, along with holiday favorites and popular titles for young readers.

Next is Target’s exclusive FAO Schwarz line on a two-page spread. Although not Target branded, this line is the closest thing Target has to ‘organic’ toys. Its placement is identical to Amazon’s branded offerings, surely not a coincidence.

The rest of the catalog layout mirrors the feel of walking through Target’s toy aisle with one notable exception, Mario. The central portion of the catalog kicks off with a beautiful two-page layout of Mario themed products that would not typically appear in close proximity within their brick and mortar stores.

Image Credit: Target

However, Target probably wanted to capitalize on Mario’s 35th Anniversary and the growing demand for Mario products. Nintendo is celebrating the milestone with events and several new product collaborations, including LEGO and Hot wheels, both of which appear on these pages. The second page highlights mostly Mario themed video games, giving high placement to MarioKart Live Home Circuit. This game turns your home into a MarioKart racetrack, which is apparently confusing people’s pets all over the internet. Check out various social media platforms for some entertaining videos of Mariokart Live Home Circuit pet encounters.

Target’s book also features the seemingly obligatory Frozen II, Disney Princess two-page spread, although it falls just shy of the centerfold, which features L.O.L. Surprise!

LEGO gets a full three pages dedicated to its products. Target conveniently included an ad for a Free $10 gift card with the purchase of $50 or more of select Lego toys. A nice bonus since Target toy coupons almost always excluded LEGOs.

Pre-school toys, pretend play, and sports bring up the book’s rear, along with several pages devoted to electronics.  

Digital Metrics/Target Website

It is clear from the layout of Target’s book that the goal is to drive customers into Target’s physical locations, rather than towards their online website. The book is devoid of QR codes, which dominated Amazon’s layout and enabled consumers to access items from the catalog easily. Amazon also provided consumers direct access to catalog products via a dedicated URL link featured on the mailer’s cover and at the bottom of almost every one of its pages. Amazon’s link brings consumers to a well-structured, easy to navigate landing page. Conversely, Target failed to establish a dedicated URL for its Holiday catalog requiring consumers first to visit the store’s website and then enter ‘Toy Catalog’ into its search bar, which is already one step too many. 

Enter the Nightmare of Target’s Website….

Now, this the manual effort of searching for ‘Toy Catalog’ within the Target search bar may seem trivial, but sadly it’s the first of many steps and clicks consumers are forced to take before they can access the catalog’s products.

Once consumers search for ‘Toy Catalog,’ the website directs them to, I kid you not, a digital version of the catalog. I was initially confused because I was expecting a neatly organized landing page. However, the digital book is embedded with clickable links, which I would like to point out is not overtly obvious. Companies should not assume consumers will understand how to navigate their websites. It is not on the customers to figure out how to interact with a website’s components; consumers need clear direction. I would not be surprised if shoppers landed on this digital booklet and immediately hit the back button because it is not what they expect to see. They might not realize the interface contains additional links. 

Recap Segment I

Step 1: Visit Site

Step 2: Search for Toy Catalog

Step 3: Recognize the digital flyer has embedded links and begin shopping

I would love to tell you the steps and click end here, but they do not…

Do you enjoy Pong? Target seems to think you do – 

The user interface for this digital catalog is extremely frustrating to navigate. Sometimes the links work great, consumers can click on the cover, for example, and they are redirected to a page the lists all the items on the cover. However, this click item and constant redirection user interface grows increasingly more annoying with every page. 

Let’s Look at some Examples –

Image Credit:

If you click on the Marvel Villainous board game on page 5, you are redirected to a Top Toys landing page. Initially, this could confuse consumers because they are expecting to see a listing for the product. The Top Toys landing page looks like a completely different part of the website. Since the product is not immediately visible, consumers may just click the back button rather than scrolling down. If they do manage to scroll down, they will finally see the product listed towards the bottom of the page. 

Image Credit:

Recap Segment II: If you’re keeping track, the above example required the user to click two additional links (two more steps). At this point the shopper has completed between 5-6 steps before they reached their destination. It would be far easier to just type the product’s name in the search bar than to navigate all the links and redirections.

You mean these are not the Transformers you’re Looking For?

Sometimes, the digital booklet will redirect consumers to pages that don’t actually list the correct products. For example, clicking on Bubblebee on page 22 prompts the user to one of four potential follow-on links. Let me just say; this again is too many options! There is a fine line between suggesting like items and providing streamlined navigation for a better customer experience.  Let’s say I click on the follow-on link that shows the toy I’m looking for; now surely I will be directed to the correct page……WRONG! Instead, the user is directed to a page that, while does list Transformers, does not list any of the toys pictured in the catalog. The items shown in the catalog are not even shown as ‘unavailable’ or ‘sold out.’ At this point, consumers are probably annoyed, frustrated, and confused.

Image Credit:

Target could have mitigated all of this by establishing a dedicated URL that brought consumers to a single landing page with a clear layout for easy navigation. Most consumers know that items pictured in catalogs may not be available in stores. However, by making the digital book clickable, consumers now expect to see the product displayed whether or not its in stock. Since the catalog’s layout is divided by brand, it would have made more sense to have a similar website design. Omnichannel marketing works best when companies provide consumers with a seamless shopping experience, whether in-person or online. Instead, Target overcomplicated its campaign’s online component, creating a ping-pong nightmare of link redirects leaving shoppers to navigate multiple pages with too many clicks.

While the embedded link digital book may have been someone’s good idea, it severely lacks execution and prevents Target from obtaining clear consumer behavior metrics.

Target will likely be able to determine how many consumers used its 25% off coupon and how many $5 and $10 Target gift cards were issued within their campaign but will lack data relating to specific products because of the interface of their digital booklet.

What does it mean to be exclusive? 

Both Amazon and Target list items in their respective books as exclusives, which are not, in fact, exclusive. When I think of a product being exclusive, that signals one of two things (1) the item is only available at this retailer, or (2) the product available at a specific retailer is some form of a variant from the original (i.e. packing, includes extra items, etc.). So why does Amazon list the Jungle Cruise board game as an Amazon exclusive when it’s available at Barns and Noble and Furthermore, why does Target list two Star War LEGO products as Target exclusives when they are both available at and These examples are not exclusive to the retailer, nor are they variants or listed with special pricing. It does not make sense to me, so if you have made it this far in the post and you know the answer to this question -PLEASE send me a message because it is driving me crazy.

Final Thoughts

Although Target’s mailer contains probably 3x as many toy options as Amazon’s book, it falls short in its online execution and associated opportunities to collect metrics. However, Target did have a two-page featuring Stocking Stuffers, divided into different price ranges, which I thought was helpful. Its placement within the book was a little awkward as it appears right before the last main section of the catalog. I think it would be better served placed first or last, but second to last just seemed a little strange. Putting it at the end of the book with a “Don’t forget the stocking stuffers” seems more natural.

Image Credit: Target

While Target’s mailer is nice to look at, it falls short of bridging the gap between its brick and mortar and online experiences. I love Target, I love shopping in Target stores, but their website drives me crazy, which will probably be a topic for a different post. Target needs to take steps to work on their digital environment.

Amazon’s mailer is more than just a Holiday Wish Book; it is a consumer experience. The activities encourage children and their grownups to interact and to look at the products together. Target’s book is void of any additional messaging. Its focus is to advertise as many toys as possible and to drive consumers into stores or online. Amazon’s choice to include a little something extra with its activities and provide clear and concise online directions really gives it an edge over Target.

For me, the clear winner  between these two toy catalogs is Amazon. Which one did you like best? I would love to hear your thoughts, particularly if you have any concerning Target’s website interface.  

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