5 ways retailers can use AR for kids’ product promotions
When it comes to playtime, kids spend more time on touchscreen devices than traditional toys. That’s according to a research study from 2014. However, if more recent articles like “Is it wrong to let my child play on my smartphone?” are anything to go by, then the situation is likely continuing on that trend.
Still, that doesn’t mean that retailers who sell children’s products and toys will go out of business anytime soon. Although, over the years, toy sales have fluctuated, lately they’ve been booming. In 2020, the total revenue of the world toy market was $94.7 billion, 13% higher than it was in 2010.
This trend is likely to continue, but with one caveat: going forward, we will see more kids playing with “smart toys”. Experts predict that the smart toy market will reach $20,145.29 million by 2025. And already, we are seeing children’s product makers combining AR-capable touchscreen devices with physical toys to create more interactive experiences.
As parents learn more about the benefits of AR-enhanced toys, including their ability to promote more creative play, the demand for these types of children’s products will grow. For brands in this space looking to future-proof their business, integrating AR into their product lines is a smart move. However, for retailers whose product lines are aimed at children, the benefits of AR go beyond just toys.
Here are five ways kids’ product makers and retailers can use augmented reality to stand out and stay ahead.
1. Ecommerce visualisations
What does this toy look like in real life? Will it fit in my child’s bedroom or playroom? And is it even something that they would like and play with, or will it end up gathering dust? These are some of the questions parents ask themselves before purchasing toys online.
Toy stores can alleviate these and other concerns parents may have through AR product visualisations.
By giving parents a way to see what a toy would look like up close and in their own environment, brands can ensure parents know what they (and their children) will be getting before clicking the “purchase” button.
Bringing PAW Patrol toys to life
A great example of a toy brand using product visualisation is Spin Master. We recently partnered with this multinational toy and entertainment company to create a PAW Patrol AR visualisation feature using Facebook.
The feature allows parents and kids to view 3D versions in their environment of two PAW Patrol toys: the new 3-feet tall Ultimate City Tower and Marshall’s Transforming City Fire Truck.
To launch the experience, kids have to scan a space in their environment and then “place” the AR toy within it. Doing so immediately activates sounds, lights, and animations that are part of the 3D PAW Patrol toys. Parents and kids can even see animated AR versions of PAW Patrol puppies interacting with the virtual versions of the toys.
Hyping up the new Neo watch with AR
Product visualisations can also amp up anticipation. For instance, last year, Vodafone and Disney came out with a new kids smartwatch, Neo, featuring famous Disney characters from Pixar, Disney, and Star Wars.
At the time of the announcement, the watch was not yet available for purchase. However, Vodafone released a WebAR experience that let users see the watch up close virtually — and get excited about its release.
Because this particular AR for kids experience was web-based, users did not need to download any apps. Instead, they could launch the product visualisation directly from a URL in a Vodafone email marketing campaign.
After customising their watch by choosing between different iconic Disney characters for the watch face, users could see a virtual version of the watch appear in front of them.
They could then rotate the watch to see it from all angles and try out some of its most impressive features, like having a watch face character tell them the weather.
2. Immersive advertising
Most people dislike advertising, and kids are no exception. On the other hand, immersive advertising is, more often than not, welcome — especially if it involves fun filters and social media quizzes.
Promoting Teletubbies without it feeling like an ad
To get more people to tune into the British children’s TV series Teletubbies, the kids’ content company behind it commissioned us to create an Instagram mini-game filter that tells users which Teletubbies character they are.
When users activate the filter, they see different Teletubbies — plus the iconic Sun Baby and Noo-Noo — flash before them above their heads. A few seconds later, a user is matched with one of the characters.
Of course, if a user doesn’t like the character they get, nothing is stopping them from playing the game again.
Levelling up a traditional marketing campaign with AR
Brands don’t have to choose between running traditional ads and AR campaigns to see success. In fact, some of the best results we’ve seen have come from combining the two together.
For instance, in 2020, we worked with ViacomCBS to promote “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.” The WebAR experience we designed fit into a wider marketing campaign that, besides AR, also included video and a promotional website.
The experience started with a video trailer of the movie, after which users were taken to an AR effect that prompted them to respond to the message, “Arghhh ya’ ready? Open your mouth for more!”
By opening their mouths, users triggered a filter that turned their faces into that of SpongeBob.
Users could then take a photo of themselves as their favourite character before being redirected to a SpongeBob-themed microsite where they could learn about a “Where’s Gary” Getaway Sweepstakes, which had fans scanning QR codes on the packaging of 22 million products.
3. In-store and park activations
Most kids love going to toy stores, and many toy shops are on a mission to improve their in-store experience with the help of augmented reality. Not only can this inspire loyalty in current customers, but it can also push parents who would normally order toys online to make a trip to their local store with their children.
Theme parks can also benefit from AR experiences, especially if these are updated regularly, as they can prompt guests who’ve already visited to return sooner than they otherwise would.
Promoting products through an AR scavenger hunt experience at LEGO stores
In 2019, as part of the release of its Hidden Side playsets, LEGO launched an in-store WebAR scavenger hunt that acted as an interactive product demo. Shoppers visiting select LEGO stores could activate a unique AR experience using their smartphones to temporarily become a “ghost-hunter”.
By scanning a QR code or following a link on the in-store product display, users could see the virtual ghosts hiding across the store and help their LEGO friends Jack and Parker capture them before they got away.
After participating in this immersive game, users could go to the LEGO website directly from the WebAR experience to learn more about the Hidden Side playsets and download the LEGO Hidden Side mobile app.
Creating a parallel AR universe at LEGOLAND
When LEGOLAND, a chain of LEGO-focused theme parks, unveiled “LEGO Mythica: World of Mythical Creatures” at LEGOLAND Windsor in the UK, they supplemented this specific area with an AR scavenger hunt to further immerse guests into the fantastical world.
Anytime guests roaming this section of the park come across LEGO statues of mythical creatures such as the sky lion, alicorn, hydra, and chimaera, they can scan their plaques, which feature a QR code, to see the characters in AR.
Doing so gives users the chance to learn more about each creature, take a selfie with them, and even capture them as a trading card.
Some augmented reality features can only be activated by scanning special “pop cards” that visitors can get their hands on after doing something specific, like buying a kids’ meal at The Hungry Troll restaurant — a unique way to get guests to spend more while on-site.
4. Virtual events and special occasions
AR can also help bring to life events that may not, for whatever reason, be able to go ahead in real life.
Rather than cancelling a Halloween-themed walk, a lung cancer charity made it virtual
Every year, the UK-based lung cancer charity, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, runs a children-focused family event, the Spooky Welly Walk. The event, which sees kids and parents going on a two-mile Halloween-themed walk and participating in fun activities and challenges, is always much anticipated.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the Spooky Welly Walk could not go ahead in 2020. To avoid disappointing both kids and their parents, the charity decided to hold a virtual interactive Halloween-themed adventure instead.
Working with us, the charity created a book with QR codes that families could scan to activate four different AR filters: a pumpkin patch, a creepy forest, a beastly bridge, and a spooky swamp.
Not only were the kids and their parents “transported” to these locations, but they were also transformed into fun and terrifying characters and/or could interact with the filter in real-time. For instance, the creepy forest filter had bats flying everywhere every time users opened their mouths.
Bringing virtual Christmas trees to childrens’ wards
For the Great Ormond Street Hospital and Children’s Charity, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that children staying at the hospital could not have a real Christmas tree in their wards. Determined to spread some Christmas cheer nonetheless, the hospital partnered with us to create an augmented reality Christmas tree that kids and their families could “place” in their physical environment.
The AR tree was decorated with virtual lights and ornaments, including animal decorations representing the different animal-themed wards in the hospital.
When the Christmas tree first launched, it spun around so that the user could see it from all sides. They could then place it in their own space in whatever position they preferred. But the fun did not end there. Users could interact with the tree in their environment, like plugging it in to see it light up and snapping a family holiday picture beside it.
If and when users wanted to place the tree elsewhere, they could click the “Try again” button. Moreover, because the Christmas tree effect was a WebAR experience, users could start the experience from their browser without having first to download any apps.
5. AR-powered toys and games
What’s better than a toy? A toy that’s enhanced with AR! Toys that have interactive experiences within them are more likely to engage kids for longer periods of time, especially if these experiences are continuously updated.
Enhancing traditional LEGO sets with AR
First introduced in 2019, Lego Hidden Side is no ordinary product line. Besides a cool “ghost hunting” theme, the eight available playsets based on different locations, like a school, boat, and graveyard, also come with an augmented reality app that lets kids become actual ghost hunters.
Like with any other LEGO set, the experience starts with kids assembling the LEGO blocks. Once that is done, they can use the camera on their smartphones to unlock a Hidden Side AR portal that makes the set, whether it’s a school or a boat, come to life. Kids then get to explore, play games, and solve mysteries, and they can do so either on their own or with friends.
Combining a physical Mario Kart with AR adventures
In 2020, Nintendo did something no one expected. It released “Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit”, a toy that combines physical, radio-controlled cars with AR, turning players’ homes into an AR-enhanced racecourse.
The toy consists of a Mario Kart RC car with a camera mounted on top of it and a button that connects it to the Switch. To get started, users need to download a free game app that syncs with the kart through a QR code and place the fold-out cardboard gates they received with the toy on their floor.
As users “drive” the kart through the gates, they have a first-person view of the road in front of them, with AR track markers, items, and enemies appearing out of the blue as they progress through the game.
Augmented reality for kids’ products: getting started
From advertising to ecommerce visualisations to AR-powered toys, the use cases and benefits of augmented reality for kids’ product makers and retailers are numerous.
With many brands already experimenting with this new technology and the market for smart toys expanding, every children’s brand should consider how AR can help their business operations.
Want to get started with AR today? Whether you need some guidance or know exactly what you want, the team at Poplar Studio will be able to help you get your project off the ground.