It’s not news that the big-box toy stores are struggling to stay afloat. The plight of Toys “R” Us and others has made way for more independent lines to thrive. One of those success stories is Blabla Kids, a brand that has been specializing in naturally-made dolls and other merchandise since 2001. The Blabla Kids staff invited the What’s in Store crew out to their flagship store in Atlanta to talk about how they’re using reports and Google remarketing ads to boost returns on investments.
Blabla Kids founders Susan Pritchett and Florence Wetterwald first met as twentysomethings working at an architectural firm in Atlanta. Susan, a photo and film stylist from Albany, Georgia, and Flo, a French artist, immediately bonded over their love for the arts, beauty, and life.
“When I first came to the States, I could barely speak English, but we were speaking in sign language and became friends pretty fast,” Flo says.
At the suggestion of Flo’s mother, an accomplished knit designer in France, the pair visited Peru to see the artform in person. There, they encountered master knitters who’d passed the process down from generation to generation. After witnessing the talents of the knitters and the quality of the finished products, Susan and Flo wanted to start their own company of knitted products.
What started as anthropomorphic dolls with their own names and backstories has since blossomed into a full catalogue of pillows, blankets, mobiles, rattles, books, and puppets. These days, Blabla Kids products are in 500 stores worldwide, and their staff is split between Atlanta and Peru.
The design concepts start with Flo, who sketches out her characters and their personalities. The entire team gets involved in the process, with Susan chiming in on backstories and handling the corresponding copy. Comprised of natural fabrics and produced through fair trade, the end product, Flo says, is more than just a toy.
“I mean, there’s a lot of humanistic values that are attached to it,” she says. “It’s all of those good values that make you feel really good about a product. Then there’s also the textile part of it that they’re super soft and kind of irresistible.”
Flo’s husband, Joseph Strong, is the CFO of Blabla Kids. He agrees these little details matter.
“With Toys ‘R’ Us going under, I think people, in general, are turned off by the waste and the artificial materials that they don’t want in their lives anymore,” he says. “Having these natural fibers in a doll is like, ‘Yeah, this is something real. We can hold on to this and keep it for a while.’ It’s not going to go out of style and it’s not going to harm the environment.”
Susan and Flo joke that they were late to the digital marketing party. When they finally did open up their online shop, navigating the world of e-commerce and all its nuances had to be learned on the go. Enter Brandy Schuman, who came on board as the social media and marketing manager for Blabla Kids.
“When I first started working here we didn’t send marketing emails, that’s for sure,” she says. “Even our Instagram was not taken very seriously.”
Before really embracing social media and other channels of communication, Brandy and the team had to pinpoint their audience. It was always assumed that expecting mothers and women were their biggest audience. After using revenue reports, which enabled the team to see which customers make a purchase (and what they buy), the data told a different story.
“We have were surprised by the number of men shoppers” Joseph says.
And that wasn’t all.
“We also learned that a lot of our customers are single women and may not have children yet, and that was a demographic we hadn’t really thought about,” Brandy says. “We were like, it’s grandmas and moms, and now we’re seeing that it’s young people who want to buy cool presents for their friends having babies.”
With a clearer picture of who their audience is, the Blabla Kids team has been looking to better target specific customers, as well as expand their global reach. “We’ve never paid for ads,” Flo says. Since the staff has grown to 10 in Atlanta, and anywhere between 15 and 50 in Peru depending on the project and demand, Susan, Flo Joseph, and Brandy have their hands tied.
Brandy says using Google remarketing ads to recapture their audience on various platforms has been very successful. For instance, she’s recently been targeting customers that haven’t been to the site in 6 months. She’s also trying to better target other countries, since Blabla Kids international audience accounts for roughly 15%-20% of sales.
“When Google remarketing became a feature, it was really easy for me to go, ‘Oh, OK, let me go in there and try that,’” Brandy says. “Since then the return on investment has been really good.”