Walmart launches interactive ‘Toy Lab’ to engage kids, showcase toys this holiday

The effort lets kids explore 20 different popular toys, and then generate a video highlight reel with a custom URL to send to their gift-giver.

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Walmart is making it even easier for kids to discover the toys they want this holiday season.

The retail giant has launched an interactive video Toy Lab, where children can see and, to some degree, interact with 20 selected toys that have been rated highest by kids. This is Walmart’s first interactive video effort.

“Everyone gets a Golden Ticket.” Developed by New York City-based interactive entertainment shop Eko, the interactive video features buttons that lead to different video segments. The Lab’s toys include Barbie Dreamhouse, Imaginext Jurassic World Jurassic Rex and the LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster. This is Eko’s first video project with Walmart.

It’s part of a new marketing effort by Walmart to promote its toys, along with more toys featured in designated shops inside the retailer’s physical stores.

A key marketing goal of the Toy Lab, Eko Chief Creative Officer Alon Benari said, is to enlist the “unboxing” anticipation and browsing enthusiasm of kids exploring new toys, by providing “an interactive video version of a toy catalogue.”

“Everyone gets a Golden Ticket to play with the toys,” he said, referencing the film, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

How the buttons work. In the online interactive video, buttons offer a 360-degree view of the Lab, a “play” function (where the host shows different play scenarios of the toys), a Fun Cam showing children’s free play with the toys, and a button marked “Don’t Push.”

When pushed — which obviously everyone does — the “Don’t Push” button shows something surprising, like the camera turned upside down, the on-screen human host turning into a cookie or the host becoming invisible.

When the child is done exploring, she can press an on-screen button to generate a custom video highlight reel that resides online at a custom URL. That URL can be cut-and-pasted into a messaging app, email or elsewhere, using the child’s own accounts.

COPPA-compliant. Because the site is COPPA-compliant, no personal information is captured or requested from the children, and there is no sign-in. Although a session in the Toy Lab can’t be saved, the Lab will resume a session the next time that browser reappears.

The highlight reel shows the toy names, which the parent or child needs to copy in order to manually search for the item on the Walmart site or elsewhere. The video uses a proprietary Eko player that loads with the video, employs HTML5 video with overlays, and works on PCs, Macs and iOS/Android devices.

Benari said Walmart doesn’t have any data yet on site usage, or whether this approach makes a difference in toy sales. A paid media campaign promoting the interactive Toy Lab includes pre-roll ads on YouTube, as well as displays in Times Square.

Why this matters to marketers. After decades of promise but little real progress getting into the marketing mainstream, interactive video has now become easier to produce, manage and deploy with HTML5, the Net and high-speed connections.

Working with personalized video platform SundaySky, Target has employed interactive video to tout the benefits of its REDcard, and AT&T is using interactive video to show how to pay a bill online.

Walmart’s first venture into this kind of marketing could signal a similar adoption by other retail marketers for product exploration.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Barry Levine
Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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