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Site seeing: Entertainment-related retailers: Toys ‘R’ Us and Blockbuster

Greg Skinner (mina@inforamp.net) is a communications consultant for Mina Research and a marketing columnist who specializes in the kids market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked Skinner to do some browsing on...
March 1, 1997

Greg Skinner (mina@inforamp.net) is a communications consultant for Mina Research and a marketing columnist who specializes in the kids market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked Skinner to do some browsing on our behalf and report on some of the interesting kids sites raising a ruckus in cyberspace.

As the reach of the Internet continues to grow, entertainment-related retailers are beginning to make their presence felt. This month, we peek at two distinct efforts by retailers to span the uncharted region between the customer and the product manufacturer.

-Toys ‘R’ Us

(www.toysrus.com)

Cheerful graphics greet you at the door to the Toys ‘R’ Us site, but you may not be so delighted by the time you leave.

There is no one thing that causes this site to be classified as destitute, but a whole bunch of little things bring it down a notch, including:

- a Gift Ideas section-an excellent idea-spoiled by some incredibly fuzzy graphics and mediocre presentation;

- a Toys section, where majors like Playmates, Hasbro and Trendmasters have a colossal chunk of their brand equity erased because each company’s logo is presented in identical colors, fonts and borders;

- product shots that are often way too small, requiring bionic eyes to see the teeny, tiny detail;

- the lack of a brand or manufacturer’s name for the toy showcased in Product Spotlight;

- and non-existent site controls, such as arrow keys, to guide visitors through the site.

Amid the doom and gloom, are there any bright spots? A couple:

- the Trendmasters area, which features a fully interactive Gumby coloring book. It’s a gem, with sound, color and fun interplay. Although it’s not perfect, it’s one of the few places on the site that feels dynamic-very cool.

- the Promotions section offers a lot of sweepstakes action with such brands as Nickelodeon and Space Jam, as well as promos for Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation games. Each of these efforts works hard to get people involved-and shopping.

Believe it or not, while most sites could use more content, this one could actually use less. Instead, it needs to tighten up its delivery and its punch. The bottom line is that the site is an underachiever in a lot of places when, really, it should be one of the best.

Overall rating: yeeks (6 out of 10)

-Blockbuster

(www.blockbuster.com)

Welcome to Blockbuster’s Web site, where-just like its stores-you’ll find quite a variety of things to entertain the mind.

This site has Games (video games), Music, Books and Video sections, as well as a News area, but you really only find the kid-oriented material in the first two.

The Games section profiles recently released, flying-off-the-shelf titles from Sony, Nintendo and Sega, and from indie software developers such as Acclaim. The presentation of these offerings is a bit bland, especially when you consider the dynamic nature of young gamers. Simple graphics and descriptions, which seem to be taken from the back of the package, don’t do enough to take advantage of what the site could offer.

Clicking on a specific link in this section transports you directly to that product-maker’s site. In most circumstances, this feature is a good idea. But here, it’s potentially fatal, simply because the destinations tend to offer waaay more excitement than Blockbuster d’es. Blockbuster risks losing its visitors!

The same thing happens in the Video section. Although kids movies aren’t profiled in abundance, links take you directly into each studio’s site. So D3: The Mighty Ducks, for instance, links up to the Disney locale; Mickey and Michael Eisner are pleased for sure.

The two outstanding features of this site have to be the upcoming titles list in the Video and Music sections and the entire Music area. The former, in all its simplicity, generates good anticipation by posting release dates-brilliant; this would work great in the Games section! The latter absolutely shines, being extremely comprehensive and well executed, with tons of promos and giveaways including a VH1 Crossroads poster and music samplers from RCA and MCA.

Overall, it’s a nice clean site with a blistering music section. It’s a shame Blockbuster d’esn’t go a whole lot further to capitalize on its own potential. This locale needs to generate more hype and excitement by leveraging the strengths of its offerings (and associated products, from VCRs to candy), because right now it merely acts as a launchpad to the more interesting sites of its suppliers. Ironic, isn’t it?

Overall rating: mellow (6.5 out of 10)

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