Santa Goes Mobile: Walmart and Mattel Test Virtual Toy Store in Canada


Tesco made headlines a year ago when its HomePlus retail subsidiary in South Korea tested a virtual store in a Seoul subway station, showcasing items that could be scanned and ordered by smartphone for home delivery, while Peapod is testing virtual grocery shopping in the U.S.

Now Walmart is testing a similar idea in Toronto in partnership with Mattel. The retail and toy giants are teaming up on what’s described as Canada’s first pop-up virtual toy store, enabling QR code-based shopping of Mattel brands — including hot toys from Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price and Thomas & Friends brands — to holiday shoppers.

The pop-up is located in the city’s massive PATH underground walkway, a retail concouse that connects downtown buildings and and an array of businesses to Toronto’s Union Station rail commuter hub. It may find a ready pool of virtual shoppers, as it will run for four weeks in the same location where tested a QR-enabled store in April.[more]

The virtual toy store “features two walls of three-dimensional toy images,” according to a press release. “Shoppers simply scan a QR code with their smartphone to purchase the hottest Mattel holiday toys from Walmart Canada, who also provides free shipping. … While traditional gift-givers can still purchase toys online or in-store, the virtual toy store aims to revolutionize what it means to window shop.”

“Walmart is a top destination for innovation and for holiday shopping, especially when it comes to toys. We’re thrilled to partner with Mattel to bring this exclusive out-of-store experience to our busy customers,” stated Cheri Anthony, Walmart Canada’s director of merchandising for toys. “It’s another way we can help Canadian families create holiday magic for less.”

“As Canadians become increasingly comfortable with e-commerce, we see mobile-commerce taking off; in fact, the most recent statistics show that four out of five consumers use smartphones to shop1,” added Melissa Chau, Brand Manager, Mattel Canada, citing comScore research. “As leaders at the forefront of the retail customer experience, together with Walmart we are innovating shopping for our customers this holiday season.”

Walmart Canada last week announced its list of the top 20 must-have toys for the 2012 holiday season. All items on the list were selected based on feedback the retailer collected from kids and parents at its Great Big Toy Testing Event in July. The Canadian arm of Walmart, which features a holiday planner on its website, also promised more than 1,000 new toys will hits its stores’ shelves in time for holiday shopping.

(Credit for the Walmart/Barbie virtual toy store to Canada’s Brandfire Marketing Group and IMA Outdoor.)