Zuru Toys Builds Crisp Data Into Its Playbook For On-Shelf Success
Zuru Toys Builds Crisp Data Into Its Playbook For On-Shelf Success
By harnessing real-time, store-level insights from retailers like Walmart, Zuru isn’t just playing in the global toy market – they're redefining the rules.

By Retailist Team

In the heart of New Zealand, a modern-day global empire flourishes, driven by a combination of cutting-edge analytics and creative imagination. Welcome to the world of ZURU Group. Founded in 2003, ZURU has expanded from its Kiwi roots to become a powerhouse in the toy industry worldwide, boasting a broad and dynamic portfolio ranging from seasonal summer staple Bunch-O-Balloons™ to the global sensation that is Mini Brands™

Beyond the toy aisle, ZURU owns fast-growing brands in the pet, baby, and wellness categories; including Monday Haircare – another Internet-famed name, with its millennial-pink products rapidly capturing retail market share. 

ZURU’s secret weapon? Automation and their commitment to being data-driven. From the beginning, the company has prioritized the application of data in every decision. So when it came to retail intelligence, and the potential to leverage actionable, real-time point-of-sale (POS) data to improve supply chain and merchandising, the organization turned to Crisp

A Data-Driven Vision

In the fast-moving, dynamic world of consumer goods, agility is paramount. With distribution across 120 countries and a lean business model that minimizes reliance on warehousing – opting to ship direct-to-store from their manufacturing facilities – ZURU recognizes the need to sync with customer demand in real-time.

To realize their vision of a streamlined, data-empowered supply chain, Director of Sales Operations and Analytics Franz Oliveira signed on to Crisp in Spring 2022. 

The goal isn’t to merely access data, he explains – it’s about using it to craft an agile, responsive, and efficient global operation. 

Previously, Franz’s team spent 10-15 hours a week pulling reports manually, which left their analysts with little time to uncover and present important insights. With team members spread across multiple time zones, it was even more difficult to aggregate information and work efficiently as a unit.

“With Crisp, tasks that took us hours to complete have been condensed to minutes,” Franz highlights. “This has allowed us to pivot from number crunching to innovation and efforts that drive the business forward.”

Today, ZURU is going to market with new products in as little as three months, effectively staying ahead of demand and pioneering early category trends. This helps ZURU build strong, strategic partnerships with retailers like Walmart, where they’ve boosted total distribution 55% in the last year. 

Assembling The Applications

Crisp seamlessly integrates into ZURU Group’s daily workflow across multiple use cases, teams, and time zones.

Proactive inventory management

ZURU has elevated the concept of inventory management, seamlessly moving from demand plan to manufacturing, then direct to retail at the store level. With insights from Crisp, ZURU not only advises retailers on the volume of products to stock but directs it to individual store locations for optimal distribution.

“When we go to Walmart and Target we don’t just tell them how much to buy, we tell them where the product needs to go,” Franz clarifies. This precision-driven approach, supported by real-time, store-level data, ensures that products are readily available where the demand is highest, enhancing sales and customer satisfaction.

Minimizing markdowns

Reducing the need for markdowns protects profit margins and brand value. By exercising proactive inventory control with Crisp’s insights, ZURU has successfully sidestepped up to 50% of potential markdowns in the last year, safeguarding and even boosting its bottom line.

Detecting voids

Solving for voids is not an ad-hoc effort for ZURU; it is a regular and vital component of their analytics, ensuring that they are always aware of what’s missing and where. Backed by machine learning, Crisp’s voids dashboards help the team maintain a consistent product presence across all its retailers, fostering trust with its partners and ensuring a reliable brand experience.

Maximizing merchandising

Effective merchandising can mean the difference between a new toy flying off the shelves or remaining undiscovered. Historically, decisions about where to target maintenance efforts have been based on broad strategies or even gut feelings.

Today, instead of dispatching merchandising teams to randomized locations, ZURU leverages Crisp’s data analytics to pinpoint exactly which stores require merchandising attention. The team can then leverage sales insights to tailor unique store strategies that boost sales.

Store-level marketing

Marketing efforts can also boost sales volume, but as Franz puts it, “we don’t want to market to an empty shelf.”

Imagine a scenario where ZURU’s latest toy iteration is flying off the shelves in Seattle but has significant stock left in Miami. Traditional digital marketing methods might blanket both regions with the same campaign intensity. But with store-level insights, ZURU can amplify its advertising spend in the Miami area.

By integrating store-level analytics with their digital marketing strategies, ZURU ensures that their marketing dollars are spent most optimally.

Swift go-to-market decisions

In the competitive, yet innovative and experimental toy category, time is of the essence when launching a new product. We know that ZURU can bring a product to market quickly, but what happens after the first shipments reach stores?

“We have a million decisions we need to make within the first two trades –notably, whether we need to increase or decrease supply [to any given location]” Franz explains.

Enabled with Crisp’s real-time, store-level insights – different from syndicated data packages which maintain six-week delays – Franz and his team of analysts can devise strong go-forward strategies for new products early in launch.

Devising seasonal sales strategies

In November and December 2022, ZURU experienced an 86% year-over-year sales increase at Walmart. 

This surge is a testament to all of ZURU’s data-driven efforts throughout the year and reflects the strategic use of Crisp’s insights to optimize inventory and marketing efforts for the holiday season.

The impact of these strategies is becoming increasingly evident in the 2023 holiday season, with ZURU seeing a significant year-over-year rise in November unit sales: 9% at Walmart and 13% at Target, respectively.

Collaborating as a category advisor

ZURU stands distinctively apart in the toy sector, positioning itself as not just a supplier, but an advisor driven by a relentless passion for data. Their data-first approach to retail isn’t just about pushing their products but optimizing the retail space for the best consumer experience.

Franz emphasizes, “Our buyers tell us that no other brands are bringing data to the table like we are. We not only propose our products, but we show how the retailer can optimize the space as a whole and make it consumer-centric.”

It’s a partnership approach, where ZURU’s objective isn’t just their success but the overall success of the retail space. This can even mean suggesting that some of their shelf space be given up to other suppliers if the data suggests it’s in the best interest of the consumer experience.

These suggestions reflect a practice known as joint business planning, or JBP. By definition, JBP helps goods suppliers and retailers build winning relationships that benefit both parties and improve the commerce experience through clear insights into the other’s needs and recognition of mutual interests.

“In line reviews, our forecast accuracy is much better [than other suppliers] because of our access to store-level data,” Franz points out. This precision allows ZURU to anticipate market needs, adjust its strategies in real-time, and ensure its retail partners are always a step ahead.

Unboxing insights: How ZURU’s Mini Brands™ make for big business

In our most meta use-case yet, ZURU leverages Crisp data to ensure that its pint-sized, CPG-licensed Mini Brands™ collectibles remain synchronized with the dynamic rhythms of the macro market.

ZURU’s Mini Brands™ offer whimsical, yet starkly accurate miniature versions of everyday products found in households across the globe. These compact collectibles aren’t just toys, but rather a cultural phenomenon; a convergence of nostalgia, brand recognition, and the simple joy of unboxing surprises.

Online, viewers tune in by the millions to watch influencers unveil which mini products they’ll discover next, adding a communal and anticipatory aspect to the experience.

These fast-moving, hyper-trendy goods require nothing short of real-time data, and an agile and responsive supply chain which ZURU accomplishes with Crisp.

From Insights To Innovation

At ZURU Group, Crisp’s provision of store-level data has become so integral it’s now highlighted in presentations to retail partners.

Franz elaborates, “Anytime we present to companies like Walmart or Target, we talk about who we are, and then we discuss our intersection with Crisp, and our company’s data transformation.”

With the integration of Crisp, ZURU’s data bottlenecks have since been eliminated. Instead of relying solely on Franz’s sales analytics team for insights, all teams now have direct access to essential information.

“Today, we don’t spend time talking about numbers because everybody has the numbers. We spend time talking about strategy and driving the business forward,” he states.

Beyond the numbers and charts, it’s the stories of innovation and disruption that truly set ZURU apart. Their dedication to reimagining tomorrow, whether through toys or technology, signals a bright future.

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