Walmart has created an online Walmart Toy Lab, described as a "digital playground," where kids can use home computers or tablets to access and play with 20 of the toys on the retailer’s Top Rated by Kids list, according to a Walmart press release.
To enable the online experience, Walmart has partnered with interactive video entertainment provider Eko. By using an online "Funtroller," kids can select toys to test, watch other children play, and share their lists of favorites.
The Walmart Toy Lab features an array of items from different brands, including, Barbie Dreamhouse, Imaginext Jurassic World Jurassic Rex, STEM Jr. Wonder Lab, Nerf Laser Ops 2 Pack, Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage, Incredibles 2 Jack Jack Doll, PikMi Pops Surprise, LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster and others.
It has been a month since Walmart said it was forming a joint venture with Eko to develop interactive programming and other initiatives. The retail giant announced that it was investing a reported $250 million into the venture, which will eventually include interactive programming and shoppable ads. But, it looks like one of their first undertakings focuses on kids and tech.
The move by Walmart shows it’s getting serious about filling a void left in retail toy sales by the demise of Toys R Us. Walmart already said it was boosting its toy selection and assortment by 30% in stores and 40% online. In an interview this fall with Retail Dive, D.A. Davidson & Co. analyst Linda Bolton Weiser said Walmart is angling to become the sector’s new premiere showroom for toys. "Consumption or sell-through demand by consumers doesn't change just because Toys R Us went under," Weiser said.
The online experience sounds very much like an interactive version of the toy unboxing videos that are so popular on YouTube, a comparison that Walmart directly acknowledged. Walmart and Eko allowing kids to essentially test drive popular toys in their own homes might be a welcome development for parents who might be anxious about whether or not their kids will really enjoy the presents they receive this holiday season.
The Toy Lab launch with Eko demonstrates that the retailer is making its intentions clear both in the brick-and-mortar and online environments.