The Entertainer, the UK’s largest high street toy retailer with 120 stores, replatformed a year ago, choosing a new email and personalisation platform for its ecommerce business.

With an increased ability to test and learn, the retailer has increased email revenue by 300% since the change. 

Rob Wood, Head of Online, explains that these gains are all about creative and segmentation.

There hasn't been big growth of the database, the team has simply sent "better messages to the same people and got a better result".


Previously, only 14% of online customers made a repeat purchase, so The Entertainer targeted greater personalisation in order to tempt customers back.

This was partly enabled by a recommendations engine, Smartfocus, that gathers customer data as they browse and order from the ecommerce site.

However, with buyers purchasing gifts for others, recommendations can be a tricky prospect. The Entertainer attempts to get round this with its 'Birthday Club'.

Rob explains that parents are asked "who they’re buying for and when their birthday is and are then provided recommendations based on what a child that age might like.

"Previous behavior isn’t a guarantee of what a customer wants to buy now, so we can be far more useful by targeting the occasion and the recipient of the gift."

It's this mix of behaviour-driven and content-driven email that proves successful.

present finder

Dynamic content

The Entertainer now uses dynamic content in email, which is agile and therefore relevant at the time of open.

"The information you used to set up your email two days ago might not be the best information when the email is opened," said Rob.

"If you know customers aren’t going to look at every single one of your emails, you need to offer them the very best message when they do choose to interact with your brand."

Uses of this dynamic content are varied across the industry, from targeting a user with an Android or iOS app download message dependent on device, to targeting content geographically via IP addresses, to time-sensitive offers.

In the case of The Entertainer, a live price feed is one of the dynamic elements added to email. Rob explains the rationale behind this:

"To offer our customers the best possible value we change hundreds of prices a week, often at short notice.

"Because our platform offers automated product recommendations, we need a live feed price feed to make sure our emails are accurate whenever they’re opened."

entertainer live email  entertainer live email 

And, of course, dynamic email content wouldn't be dynamic email content without the ubiquitous countdown timer.

However, as far as implementations go, The Entertainer's is perhaps the most joyous and feels like a natural use of the feature - counting down the days to Christmas.

Whether instilling fear in present-buying adults or wonder in expectant children, you can see the advantages of such a tactic.

live countdown

What's next? 

One may think that improved email functionality dictates a greater workload, given strategic considerations such as more content creation and more testing and learning.

However, as is often the case when legacy technology is replaced, efficiency can allow staff to refocus.

Rob says that "building emails is quicker and easier, so time that was previously spent doing the legwork can now be spent on analysis."

As for the future of dynamic content, psychographic targeting on social media is one area Rob expects to be big.

I think social will be the area where dynamic content really takes off. If you set your Facebook status to 'engaged', you quickly see the potential for brands to serve relevant content to consumers as you’ll be inundated with ads for wedding services.

But it’s a bit of a blunt instrument at the moment and I think this will become much more sophisticated and engaging in the future.

Targeting and retargeting segments across email, social and website is certainly becoming the reality of conversion.

For more on dynamic content, read the following:

Ben Davis

Published 27 June, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Cool. Like the live pricing. Good to see a company doing all this.

Bit surprised that e.g. the "New Toys added every Thursday" isn't a countdown timer and that there isn't social proof in the product recommendations (e.g. number of recent purchases), but nice one guys! Here are some more ideas:

almost 2 years ago


Dr Janet Bastiman, Chief Science Officer at SmartFocus

When Rob and his team came to us they told us they wanted a world-class digital marketing platform that could let them personalise, segment and achieve a single view of their customers. They needed to make the complex simple, in order to interrogate their customer data from across all online channels. They wanted to understand who their customers are, how often they shop with them, what kind of products they liked and their lifetime value.
Our solution has enabled Rob and his team to understand their customers and connect with them in real-time - whether it’s by email, mobile, web or social channels. Rob’s team now have a single customer view to power smarter emails tailored for specific personas. Using advanced algorithms to send contextualised, real-time messages relevant to each individual and address the complex buyer personas has enabled them to achieve truly astounding improvements in their results – including 3x email revenue, 2x open rates, increased conversion rates, 120% increase in mobile sales, 60% increase in returning shoppers and significantly increased AOV within 12 months of using our platform. But you don’t need to take my word for it, read what Rob and his team have to say about the work we have done together

almost 2 years ago

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