The Toys "R" Us Affiliate Program, Going Bankrupt.

Last Update: Sep 20, 2017


Toys"R" Us is filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and as a result, the affiliate program and those leveraging it is going to need to eventually move and promote something else.

The big box stores continue to fall victim to the Internet and the e-commerce world. There've been many companies and big brands (such as Sears) that are following the same demise after many years of success in the offline marketplace. This is indicative of our new "world" Where much greater percentage of people purchase things online, leaving much higher costs with smaller returns for off-line businesses and shops.

One thing that you may find interesting about Toys R Us, is that yes, they did have an affiliate program. But it was one that most affiliate marketers wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

A Short Cookie Life, Attracts Fewer Affiliates

When I say this it isn't because their product or company weren't great. I have had great shopping experiences at Toys R Us over the years and I am really sad to see them close their doors. What I have never been keen on is the Toys R Us affiliate program and their "5-hour cookie" max affiliate links (see below).

It is actually quite insulting to an affiliate to have a cookie this short. You go to all the hard work to create content, to generate traffic, to implement marketing strategies, and to incorporate streamlined promotions for a particular company, only to realize that if someone doesn't buy the exact moment they leave your page, then you are not going to get any credit.

That is frustrating, but worse yet, you experience far lower commissions than you would have with a longer length. With a cookie length of 7 days vs. 5 hours, you could expect at least double the sales volumes as a result of your hard work as an affiliate marketer.

Why Amazon Associates Gets Away With a Short Cookie Length?

Amazon is notorious for their 24-hour cookies.

However, amazon has over 500 MILLION products on their storefront. You can go there to buy pretty much anything from groceries, to appliances, to clothing, to things for your animals. When people head over to Amazon, they are always engaged in a "buying state of mind" because they're shopping.

Sure, like the offline world you're going to have some window shoppers, but generally speaking it is far more efficient to purchase something online and you have a selection that is unparalleled anywhere in the offline world.

It is often times far more efficient to purchase stuff from home, versus getting your car, packing up your kids, and driving to the mall. These all incur time costs as well as actual costs (gas, parking, etc).

The Amazon affiliate program has a lot of benefits because of the purchase volume that people have on there and the overall familiarity & association with buying stuff through Amazon.

Sometimes when you're promoting one thing, you will get a bunch of sales for something completely different. Over the years I have had some of the strangest purchases as a result of my affiliate links pointing people to buy something else.

That is the benefit of having our platform like Amazon where you can buy a dog toy, men's underwear and a TV all in one spot (and sometimes people buy all of them all at once lol).

If Amazon didn't have so much PULL within the e-commerce world and their processes didn't convert as well as they do for affiliate, they surely wouldn't be able to get away with a 24-hour cookie.

When you consider such massive shopping platforms like have 30 days cookies, Amazon cookie life is still on the lower end and has always been one of the drawbacks using Amazon's affiliate program.

Companies That Are Not Investing in e-Com, Are Doomed.

I would have to say if a company is just starting to get into the Econ aspect of their business, they are potentially too late.

When you are competing with the likes of Amazon, eBay, Wayfair, Jet, Etsy and some of the other big players in the e-commerce space, you need to realize that if you is going to step into the e-commerce world you need to be prepared to compete on many fronts.

Some of these include:

  • Price
  • Shipping
  • Shopping UI/UI
  • Customer Support
  • Affiliate Program (incuding "cookie length")
  • Affiliate Management

These are all areas that the top online commerce companies have focused heavily on, and are succeeding as a result of their efforts in these areas.

In an industry where the "affiliate cookie" bar has been set pretty low by Amazon, any sane affiliate will take a 5-hour cookie as nothing short of insulting.

Would Toys"R" Us Still Be Doing Well if They Focus on their Affiliate Program

We can't blame the affiliate program and the short cookie length on everything. But I can tell you as an affiliate marketer, and someone's whose worked with literally over 1 million affiliates in the past 12 years, it can be hard to attract "whale affiliates" with a short cookie length.

In particular, when your e-commerce store isn't as competitive or converts as well as some competitors. Is someone going to buy a toy with shipping charges through Toys "R" Us at $15.00 if they cannot by the exact same thing with same day "Prime" shipping from Amazon for $13.95? I doubt it.

It only takes a few experiences like this before people start looking at Amazon or other shopping platforms, before they would no longer consider shopping at Toys"R" Us. Throw in a complicated shopping process, technical issues with a website, a checkout process that is frustrating, and slow and expensive shipping times, and you can see why a companies online presence is met with resistance.

All of this has adverse effects on affiliates as it becomes more difficult and expensive (in terms of time and actual costs) to promote a program that doesn't convert very well as well. A poor cookie life only further disincentives an affiliate program such as Toys "R" Us and it surely had some level of contribution to the companies overall demise.

I would love to hear your feedback on this. What are your thoughts of the e-commerce world and whatever are some of online versus offline experiences that you have had recently? Leave your comments below.

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Recent Comments


Hi - Well, Toys R Us is not going out of business - not yet anyway.

They have filed Chapter 11 - reorganization. So, yes, it would be wise to remove your affiliate links, but don't give up on them yet.

If you have many, many links, you may want to inquire first to see if they will honor them as they go through with their reorganization. But, no, they are not going "out of business" ...yet.

Hopefully, they will improve their offerings and compete better with e-commerce, but that remains to be seen through the Holidays and how this all plays out...

I agree that you should totally give up on them yet, but is going to take some serious leadership to pull them out of this one. Their online stores in the state in which many other failing big box stores are in.

They haven't invested the resources into their Internet side of thing In the same way that the other big box stores that are thriving have.

Oh, yes, I agree! I just meant that their demise is not happening "yet." That's all. But, yes, I agree. They haven't kept up, they haven't done much of anything that I'm aware of re: the internet. But, you know... all they have to do is use (as in partner up) with Amazon or Walmart and they "could" pull the wabbit out of the hat... magic trick and totally flip their business around... if they were smart, that is. We'll see... it'll be an interesting case study for sure.

I have not had any dealings with Toys "R" Us, only because I wasn't aware of them. I do reasonably well with Amazon. Although I promote dog supplies, like you Kyle, I get commissions from some of those more expensive items which is great. And another thing I like about Amazon is that although they are extremely stringent with their policies, they clearly state them for all affiliates to read.

Unfortunately, some affiliates do not read the policies and they pay price when they are caught.

One program I have been unsuccessful with is CJ. CJ Commission when I joined them. Affiliate vendors who promote through CJ pay quite low commissions and I found the time spent trying to promote their products was totally unprofitable.

I don't have anything else on this subject to add. But, thank you Kyle for your post and highlighting the need to look at the maximum length of cookies. An important factor for new affiliates to be aware of.

Your information about Affiliates losing with Toys"R"is very much appreciated.
It appears that affiliates have much too many challenges dealing with companies like Toys"R"US and stand to lose big time due to:
Shopping UI/UI
Customer Support
Affiliate Program (incuding "cookie length")
Affiliate Management
Companies desiring to invest in e-Commerce business need to follow suit as Amazon who is one of the biggest players in the online shopping business. Affiliates should seek other opportunities with big players like Amazon that provides a higher commission return for their online success.

With that kind of service, they were bound to eventually fold.
It sounds like they have been around for a long time according to what Rob (boomergp08) states.

With all the competition out there it's a tough market to compete with, and it wasn't until I joined WA that I realized how massive it is!

I haven't shopped much on line, every couple of months at the most. I was never into online shopping, I'm more hands on and seeing everything in person. I can't see myself ever buying groceries, but more and more I see that personal shopping won't be around in the future. I wonder if my Granddaughter will experience shopping in person when she grows up.

I see many stores where I am closing because of online shopping.
Any mall I go to has a lot of retail space available because businesses can't make it, creating huge job losses. I am living in one of the top 15 economic regions that experienced the most severe increase for unemployment, and most of it retail stores who can't compete with online shopping!

It's understandable that it has taken over, and joining WA has made me realize how important it is to have my own website, and having a piece of that market out there to supply.

Thanks for this Kyle, it has opened my eyes even more to how important this is.

That's why it's important to read the terms. I checked out the Toys R Us affiliate program before but didn't notice the 5 hour cookie period. But I got turned off from the 3% they were offering vs Amazon's 4% (at the time when I compared the two). Amazon's popularity was also a factor I took into consideration.

If that's the Kyle - would WA have the direction of teaching what's in the marketing like sales process technique , funnel creation , marketing 101 i.e. Emotional buying, these are currently quite 'hot' in the market.

Many marketer are jumping into these bandwagon?

Any thought in setting up an Jit camp for the above.

This doesn't surprise me one bit. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s they were the retail king of the toy and video game world. Toys R Us was our, the video game company I worked for, biggest retail buyer.

I remember seeing their top execs in our company conference room and at our trade show exhibitions in Las Vegas always placing orders for our games. They were/are a huge company with a beautiful headquarters about 15 miles from here in NJ.

But around 2004/05 the company I worked for noticed that Toys R Us was not buying in as huge quantities as they once were. Even though we were making more online download games, we were still supporting the Nintendo market, but they were not buying.

That is when we learned of their financial troubles. And though they stopped buying from us in 2009, mainly because we were now doing nothing but online and Apple app games, many of us thought that they were probably getting their financial house in order.

I thought when they bought out FAO Schwarz that they were on the mend. But they still had many problems all leading up to this day. Poor customer service, a not so exciting website, a poor affiliate program - as you have described, the emergence of ecommerce from other sources, and prices higher than its competitors. I am surprised that they lasted this long.

It is obvious that ecommerce has played a big role in helping them lose money. Amazon is by far the online retail king in my opinion when it comes to having almost everything one could buy under one brand roof. Online marketing is not just the future, it is the present and we all should be happy about that.

I think the FAO Schwarz acquisition was one out of desperation and maybe even for some publicity. FAO on 5th closed down and that was the toy store of ALL toy stores in my opinion.

The toy industry has officially changed and you don't necessarily need to go into a toy store to make an informed decision about which toy is going to be the best for your child (or your adult lol).

The clothing industry still has a ways to go, but with free returns and some real advances in "personal measurements", I think we are going to see the likes of Macy's, Nordstroms, Sax, Hudson Bay (here in Canada) collapse if they don't keep up within the online experience for their customers.

Thanks for sharing your stories and insights here, really awesome stuff!

This doesn't surprise me. Every one of their stores I had been in had really bad customer service. I applied to work for them one holiday season--I was over-qualified and not high enough education.....I had an associate's degree but they wanted more...just to work in a toy store--seriously! I told them I didn't need them anyway~!!!!

I agree about their acquisition of FAO Schwarz. Sometimes when a company is in trouble they will buy out another similar company with hopes of making their brand stronger.

This has worked for some and has spelled the demise for others. I have seen this happen in the video game industry a few times, companies merging and then eventually both closing down.

The only downside I see to a toy store closing down has to do with that personal experience little kids, and some adults, like to have interacting with the toy before purchasing.

But if the stores can adapt to the changing landscape and be more relevant to the online ecommerce experience, keeping their in-store prices about the same, those stores could still survive.

I was just watching the news and of course this is a major headline. It would appear that most people agree with you Kyle. The convenience of sitting on the coach and purchasing online is gaining greater momentum. The other thing people of found is that Toys R Us is overpriced compared to other big box stores and the online programs.
I personally still like to walk around certain stores, electronic mostly, but will purchase certain items on line because of the variety and availability.
Like you stated when you have a variety of items that people can purchase online then you can set your cookie life short. Toys R Us should take a look at other affiliate programs that are selling one genre of goods.

For kids, they still love going in stores like this and without seeing and playing with toys, there is going to be a reliance on ads. It is strange, we can live without it, but can kids live without toy stores.

It might actually be a good thing for boutiques. Big boxes are getting run over by the likes of Amazon and eBay (it has taken some time to get here), whereas boutiques may have an advantage if they provide a great and unique experience.

And of course the online world will continue to thrive, something that is good for all of us.

What worries me is the loss of imagination and creativity. Parents are relying more on Smartphones and tablets to entertain their children. It will be interesting to see what malls in the not too distant future will look like as the flag stores close.

This is pretty much how I feel. This news is fairly depressing...crossed fingers they get there house in order. There's just nothing quite like Toys R Us near where we are, there's a Disney Story but thats a narrow field of selection, Walmart's toy department doesn't compare. Kyle's right above about Chapters growing but it's not really comparable - nothing really is though. And the advertising to kids is a fascinating thing, almost all of my childs watching habits are done through Netfllix with zero ads, or a few things on PVR where the commercials get fast forward through. She next to never sees a toy commercial so what she finds cool or stuff she wants pretty much is 100% through word of mouth from other kids or from walking through a toy department, the biggest of which now is in serious trouble. Fascinating stuff ahead for sure.

As someone brand new here, who also just picked to get into the kids toy niche, I have to say that Toys R Us Affiliate Program just confused me (granted most of this still confuses me), and I avoided it so far when my website should have been a slamdunk Toys R Us Affiliate out of the gate.

Would you believe I actually got a sale last month with the UK version of Toys R Us affiliate program. They are with commission junction while the US version is with someone else.

Thanks for letting me know about this as I need to do some work now in removing their brand / links from my site.

The interesting part about the UK Toys "R" Us is that they are operating under a 30 day cookie period whereas the US is under a 5 day cookie.

The Affiliate Program here in Canada was operating under Pepperjam for sometime but is no longer available. Strange how they have had such decentralization with their affiliate programs and their rules vary so drastically from one place to another.

Great to hear about your sale though Paul!

Yes that's 1 sale among others...
I try to mix in merchants offering 30 day cookies also...
Wal-Mart is 3 days and my sales with them surprisingly surpasses my sales with Amazon.
Thanks again for the update (and also for this awesome platform for creating websites)

Walmart has really stepped up their online game in the recent year and a bit. They also purchase in hopes that this would become the next Amazon, but they still have a ways to go with that space.

Walmart definitely has an understanding of working with a large base of SKU's and has a large network of stores, so it will be interesting to see how that relationship plays out (and whether or not they can become a true competitor to Amazon).

If affiliates start seeing more revenue from their Walmart affiliate links (over Amazon), this is certainly going to put a dent in Amazon's business and their already thin margins.

Wal-Mart is 4% across the board but it still surpasses my Amazon sales due to the extra cookie duration. I will continue to work both to give my website visitors a choice...
Thanks for the heads up on jet dot com, will check that out

Yeah, the is a 7 day cookie life and it is operated through Linkshare/Rakuten.

Learn more about it there. There are definitely making a push since I started following them a few years back.

... 7 Day COOKIES!... Yikes! I need to check THAT out too! Thank you!

Did you not mean 5 hour cookie, not 5 day cookie?

We're moving into a technology based world, everything is becoming more accessible. Why would I go to the mall and have to deal with the headache of getting ready, driving there, trying to find parking and then interacting with a bunch of strangers, some of which will probably be rude and sour my mood? I can skip all that and just order it online, and have it brought right to my door.

The internet has just begun its journey, I believe people that get a head start in online marketing are going to thank themselves when they're older. As time goes on and technology advances, you'll already be established in the online world.

I say this over and over again. The e-com world and the affiliate marketing worlds are still in their infancy and the popularity of online spending is only going to continue to increase (which gives us more and more opportunity as affiliate marketers).

It's an exciting time to be online and here at WA! :)

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