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Walmart, Mattel partner for mobile bar code-enabled virtual toy store

Walmart and Mattel are teaming up to bring a mobile-enabled toy store to commuters during the holiday shopping season, letting smartphone owners easily purchase holiday gifts on the way to work.

The pop-up virtual toy store features two walls of three-dimensional toy images and QR codes next to the popular toy items. Smartphone owners can scan the QR code to purchase a toy from Walmart and receive free shipping. 

“We recognize the holidays are a very busy time for Canadians,” said Jeff Tate, category marketing manager for hardlines and seasonal at Walmart Canada. “The virtual toy store provides us with a new way to serve time-starved customers and is a unique, interactive form of advertising.

“It also speaks to Walmart providing customers options: we’re ready for our customers when they’re ready for us – whether that means shopping at the virtual store by scanning a QR code, shopping online through or shopping in our stores,” he said.

“It also allows us to reach customers we may not otherwise reach. The virtual toy store is located in an urban area where we don’t have bricks-and-mortar store.”

Mobile holiday shopping
The virtual toy store is located in the 17-mile PATH underground walkway in Toronto that links commuters to public transportation and features numerous retail stores. The program will run for four weeks during the busy holiday shopping season and will showcase Mattel toy brands such as Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price and Thomas & Friends.

This is the first time Walmart Canada is giving customers a way to make a purchase by scanning a QR code. Commuters can also go to from their mobile device and use the 3- digit codes included on the products in the virtual store.

“The Mattel pop-up virtual toy store is located in a heavily trafficked area in downtown Toronto,” said Melissa Chau, brand manager at Mattel Canada, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. “Every weekday, 41,000 commuters will pass by the store.

“The Mattel pop-up virtual toy store will create a unique shopping experience for commuters – we are changing the meaning of ‘one-stop shopping’ and ‘window shopping’ forever,” she said.

“As Canadians increasingly use smartphones with connectivity to the Internet, they can simply scan the QR code of the toy they wish to purchase and it takes them to a Web page to purchase and ship the toy, and Walmart is offering free shipping for all the products featured in the virtual pop-up toy store.”

As smartphone penetration grows and consumers become increasingly comfortable with mobile commerce, they are using their mobile devices to help in their shopping needs.

Over the past year, a growing number of retailers and brand marketers have experimented with QR-code enabled virtual stores in locations that see heavy foot traffic, such as train platforms.

In the United States, Walmart teamed up with Procter & Gamble in June to place QR codes on bus shelters and trucks that encourage on-the-go consumers to scan and instantly buy products from brands such as Tide, Pampers and Gillette (see story).

Additionally, online grocery retailer recently launched 102 virtual grocery stores at commuter rail stations in seven regions following a successful test in several cities earlier this year. Commuters can use their smartphones to shop brands such as Barilla, Coca-Cola, Kimberly Clark, Proctor & Gamble and Reckitt Benckiser at the virtual grocery stores (see story).

The right gift
The Walmart, Mattel virtual toy store in Toronto was created by Brandfire Marketing Group in conjunction with IMA Outdoor Inc.

“Mattel and Walmart joined forces to make it easier to shop during the hectic holiday season,” Ms. Chau said. “The pop-up virtual toy store allows easy access for commuters to get the toys they want on the go and save the hassle of waiting in long line-ups at stores.

“This is the first time we’re using QR codes. We want Canadians to enjoy their holiday shopping in a unique way,” she said. “We hope Canadians appreciate Walmart Canada and Mattel being the first brands to offer customers a virtual pop-up toy store.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York