The toy world gathers in New York City every year in February for the American International Toy Fair. The show aisles are always brimming with the newest toys, games and youth entertainment products, from thousands of exhibiting companies from around the world.
It’s a plentiful playground for retail toy buyers, but with so many choices there is simply not enough time to explore all the unique products on display. Attendees hoping to see every exhibiting company have less than two minutes to spend at each booth. Visiting 1000+ manufacturers is a challenge, even for the retailers that bring large buying teams on-site, but practically impossible for small toy stores that have strict limitations on time and staffing resources.
“We knew we needed to use technology to enhance the Toy Fair experience, so we took our inspiration from social media and consumer-facing e-commerce sites, and found a digital solution that would extend the business that was happening at the show through the rest of the year.”Marian Bossard, TIA
“We wanted to empower every Toy Fair buyer with opportunities to engage and connect with every exhibitor,” says Marian Bossard, vice president of meetings and events at the Toy Industry Association (TIA), owner and operator of Toy Fair. “We knew we needed to use technology to enhance the Toy Fair experience, so we took our inspiration from social media and consumer-facing e-commerce sites, and found a digital solution that would extend the business that was happening at the show through the rest of the year.” The result is ShopToyFair365.com (STF365), a free digital platform that connects toy buyers with toy sellers. Registered Toy Fair buyers can now browse products and pricing, place orders from Toy Fair exhibitors at any time of the day or night, and every day throughout the year.
Since STF365 was launched in January 2014, nearly 40 percent of this year’s Toy Fair exhibitors have signed on, created digital showrooms, and uploaded a diverse array of product images, descriptions, pricing details, and inventory data to STF365. Top contributors include Lego, Glopo, Diamond Comic Distributors, Mastercraft Collection and The Puppet Company. Nearly 1,600 buyers, from small toy stores to mass retail outlets, have already registered, and new retailer contacts are signing up every day.
“ShopToyFair365.com is so easy to use, I was able to place an order in a matter of minutes,” reports Katina Kontos, East Coast manager of Sprout San Francisco. “We will definitely be back on the site to browse and place more orders.” Through the STF365 website and its accompanying app, buyers can place purchase orders, often with no minimum requirement, from a wide range of vendors and stay up-to-date on new product launches, without having to continually travel to trade shows and gift fairs scattered across the country. As they browse through the virtual showrooms or search for specific products (or product categories), buyers can “like” products, “follow” companies, and “share” images with their team. Any questions can be routed directly through STF365’s private messaging tool from the buyer to a contact at the toy company.
“Think of STF365 as a combo of LinkedIn, Facebook and your favorite e-commerce site, all rolled into one,” says Bossard. “It’s a convenient and empowering way for retailers to not only manage relationships with vendors, but also to enhance resources and streamline their wholesale process.” All Toy Fair buyers and exhibitors can sign up for ShopToyFair365.com using their Toy Fair 2014 registration credentials.
The STF365 app is the latest addition to an array of digital tools available to Toy Fair attendees, from Toy Fair Mobile to the Online Press Room. Additional information can also be found under the “Show Info” tab at www.ToyFairNY.com, or by contacting TIA’s senior director of trade show and event marketing, Kimberly Carcone (email@example.com). Any technical questions related to the platform can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. While access to STF365 is free for Toy Fair buyers and exhibitors, beginning in 2015 any sale that is made using the tool will include a minor transaction fee of 3% for TIA members, or 4% for non-members.