For the second straight holiday season, Walmart has launched an online interactive ‘Toy Lab’ designed to invite kids to test the period’s most-wanted toys from their tablet or computer. The launch comes one week after Target revealed it would fulfill e-Commerce orders made through the newly resurrected Toys ‘R’ Us web site.
Starting Oct. 15, young shoppers can visit the Walmart Toy Lab site and become toy testers within a virtual workshop setting. Alongside two hosts, kids will use a “Funtroller” featuring colorful virtual buttons displayed on the screen, and choose to test, look at or play a selection of 20 toys from franchises including Barbie, Star Wars, Paw Patrol and Frozen. As many as 20 more toys will be added Nov. 1.
The retail giant launched the lab in partnership with eko, a platform designed to tell interactive stories for brands, media companies and independent creators. With the eko technology, Walmart Toy Lab aims to reinvent traditional catalogs and align with visual content, such as today’s popular YouTube “unboxing” videos.
“Being a retailer isn’t simply about selling items anymore — it’s about creating an experience for our customers,” said Anne Marie Kehoe, Walmart’s VP of Toys in a statement. “The Walmart Toy Lab is a way for us to create a digital experience for kids to really see our hottest toys in action as we enter the holiday season.”
When it debuted the Toy Lab last year, Walmart sought to capitalize on the gap left by the closure and liquidation of all Toys ‘R’ Us stores in the U.S. But overall toy sales ended the year down 2% to $21.6 billion as manufacturers experienced their first holiday season without the toy retailer, according to an NPD Group study. Although toy sales will likely decline for 2019, toy sales are expected to pick up again in 2020, NPD said.