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Walmart tweaks augmented reality app strategy with more social engagement

“Man of Steel” is the latest Superman film, which opens on June 14. Walmart’s promotional campaign built around the film includes the in-store availability of advance tickets, an exclusive digital comic book, a wide selection of licensed merchandise available for sale and the mobile app.

“We are really excited about what this app does,” said Brent Duwe, director of entertainment merchandising at Walmart, Bentonville, AR. “It really takes what we did last year to the next level.

“We think that by partnering very closely with Warner Bros, it gives it a much more authentic feel and we are really excited about it and the part that it is going to play in the overall program,” he said.

“We think that this film is going to resonate really well with our customer base.”

Tweaking the formula
Last year, Walmart introduced several augmented reality apps built around films such as The Avengers and Spider-Man.

The Man of Steel app continues in this tradition but makes several tweaks to the formula based on the learnings Walmart had from these initial efforts.

The official Man of Steel Experience mobile app enables users to take photos with the superhero and unlock special photo frames by pointing their phone at Man of Steel signage inside a Walmart store.

The main menu of the app features four different buttons: Discover, Interact, Decide and Explore.

When users click on the Discover button, they will see information about everything the app does as well as about the Man of Steel program at Walmart.

Driving interaction
The Interact button enables users to take their photo with Superman. A similar feature in last year’s app for The Avengers required users to be inside a store to take their photo with the augmented reality versions of characters from that film.

For the Man of Steel app, an augmented reality version of Superman automatically appears and, in camera mode, users can stand next to him to take a picture that can be shared on social media outlets.

Users also have the option of going to a store to unlock one of several different frames to dress up the photo. The content unlocks automatically when consumers step inside a Walmart location if their phone is GPS-enabled. If it is not, users can locate a Man of Steel sign to unlock the content.

“It still gives you that drive to retail component that we like, but you don’t have to actually hold it up to a sign if your phone is GPS-enabled,” Mr. Duwe said. “We tried to simplify it a little bit.”

Picking sides
In the Decide portion of the app, users can choose to side with Superman and Earth or with Krypton and General Zod. Once users decide, a map appears showing other users both nearby and around the country who have decided.

There is also the ability to burn an augmented reality Superman crest into the user’s physical environment and take a picture with the image.

In the Explore section, users can view trailers and photos related to the film.

Treasure hunt
Walmart will update the app near the end of May with a phase two roll-out that will include a treasure hunt through the store similar to what was done for The Avengers app. Users will have to unlock different Kryptonian chips in different locations throughout the store that will be triggered off of signs.

Additionally, Walmart is encouraging customers to share their excitement for the advance screening on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #SeeSteelFirst.

The other components of the Man of Steel program include giving customers exclusive access to see the film before its official release. Tickets will go on sale in more than 3,700 Walmart stores on May 18, with the advance screening taking place on June 13.

Those who purchase a ticket for the advance screening will find a code on the back of each ticket bought at Walmart enabling customers to pre-order the Blu-Ray Combo Pack or HD Digital Download of the film once they become available.

Customers will also receive a free original digital comic book with every ticket.

Walmart stores will begin stocking a variety of Man of Steel merchandise such as T-shirts, electronics, posters and more on April 28. The merchandise will also be available to purchase online.

“We had great success last year when we did The Avengers app and the Spider-Man app,” Mr. Duwe said. “We were very happy with what we learned and how our customers were able to interact with the app and the experience in the store.

“We really learned that the social element was what customers were responding to within the app,” he said. “We tried to put things like games in there, and quite honestly the gaming experience we built was not robust enough to hold their interest.

“The social element was something that people really got engaged with and found exciting. As we looked towards the new app, the Man of Steel Experience, we tried to leverage those learnings and build this app around social components.”

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