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Walmart taps augmented reality to engage in-store customers

June 8, 2012

Walmart's Web-Slinger app for the iPhone

In the latest example of how Walmart is using mobile as a key part of its promotional strategy for summer blockbuster films, the retailer has launched the Web Slinger augmented reality app, featuring Spider-Man and enabling customers to interact with in-store displays to access exclusive content.

Walmart’s first effort to tie mobile and film promotions together was an augmented reality app for The Avengers film, which was introduced in April and enabled customers to turn an in-store shopping experience into a scavenger hunt. The latest app is in support of the retailer’s promotional efforts for the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man.

“We think as the use of mobile technology continues to grow with consumers that it is a great way to engage them,” said Brent Duwe, director of entertainment property merchandising at Walmart, Bentonville, AR.

“This is a massive program that we’ve put together to provide added value to consumers and to provide additional access,” he said.

“The augmented reality app really ties the whole thing together.”

Exclusive content
With the Web Slinger app, customers can take photos with a life-size Spider-Man and unlock content by interacting with displays in the store. Fans can also engage in the augmented reality experience during the “Secrets Unmasked Tour” truck tour, making Spider-Man and another character from the film come to life on top of a truck.

The Web Slinger app is available now but is not fully activated yet. Right now, users can view toy demos and play a Spider Man game.

The app will be updated on June 15 will two more elements. One will be the ability to point the app at a Spider-Man special edition comic book available in-store to trigger a fight sequence.

Users will also be able to trigger an augmented reality experience by pointing the app at the in-store display where the comic book and an accompanying DVD will be available. Doing so will trigger a full-size Spider-Man to appear in the store.

Users will be able to make Spider-Man jump into their screen or shoot a web at them. They can also stand next to him and have a picture taken with him that can be posted to Facebook and shared via email.

Added excitement
The app will be updated again on June 26, when a new game mode will become active.

In the game, Spider-Man’s web shooters have been broken and players have to go into Walmart and interact with four displays in various departments around the store to repair them. The displays include Kellogg’s Cheez-It and Pop-Tarts displays in grocery, the Straight Talk Wireless section in electronics as well as signage in the toys and boys’ apparel departments.

Once users have unlocked the content in-store, they will be able to play the game anywhere.

“One of the key learnings we had from The Avengers app was that people were really engaged with the social element, posting pictures on Facebook and interacting with friends because of it,” Mr. Duwe said.

“Another learning we had from The Avengers app is that we have to be much more direct about what we want users to do with the display,” he said. “There is messaging in the app but we also found that we needed to reinforce this at the sign itself.”

Walmart partnered with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Marvel Entertainment for the wide-reaching promotion which also includes an in-store screening of never-before-seen footage from the movie. The retailer is stocking a wide array of The Amazing Spider-Man licensed merchandise, including action figures and t-shirts to video games and home decor.

Walmart is using mobile to give customers Spider-Man content that they cannot access on their own or from any other retailer.

“We know that Walmart customers respond very favorably to Spider-Man and other entertainment properties,” Mr. Duwe said. “When we have a film or DVD release, we want to provide value and access to the customer that they couldn’t get otherwise.

“That’s what we tried to do with the mobile program for The Avengers and found it is a really exciting way to engage customers,” he said.

“As we learn more, it is something that we will be looking again for future programs.”

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