Verdict: Toys ‘R’ Us’ magical toy book

The toy retailer unveiled an augmented reality cover for its annual catalogue to wow kids this holiday season.

Toys ‘R’ Us and Toronto-based agency Open are trying their hands at an augmented reality cover this Christmas to help bring a bit of magic to kids.

Launched mid-November, the app is available on iOS devices and brings to life the cover scene, which features a cartoon city, by animating the storefront window and the train that circles the town. To date, it’s been downloaded nearly 5,000 times with more than 12,500 views.

“It’s the first time we’ve done it, so I didn’t know what to expect,” says Liz MacDonald, VP marketing and store planning at the toy retailer. “But if there’s 5,000 people that are engaged [enough] to download [the app] and well over 12,000 cool experiences, then I think it has been well worth it.”

The Canadian-only toy book is an important part of the brand’s overall marketing mix and one of the biggest drivers to retail at Christmas time, MacDonald says. And the brand has been making efforts over the past few years to ramp up the in-store experience with kids, so the AR cover was an opportunity to bring that experiential component into the homes, she says.

In the past few years, the brand has brought in augmented reality partnerships with brands like Lego as well as introduced a new smaller-foot print store format in B.C. this past summer. “Wonderlab” encourages a blend between play and learning, and Toys ‘R’ Us has been scouting new locations to roll out the concept in the rest of Canada.

TRU-MAGICAPP-AROf the augmented cover, MacDonald says: “We wanted to do something that was going to make the kids go ‘wow.’ Parents have been posting Facebook photos of the kids, and the three- and four-year-olds think its magic.”

The book itself was designed to make it easy for parents and kids to make wish lists, calling out hot toys (which are also highlighted in-store on signage listing all the toys, and posts on the shelves).

It was mailed out to almost seven million homes, targeting moms with children up to 12 years old, says Christian Mathieu, partner, Open. It’s also on displays in stores with signage encouraging families to download the app and give it a spin.

A partnership with Corus TV stations counted down the book drop for kids helping to build excitement, MacDonald says.

Toys ‘R’ Us isn’t the first brand to explore the use of augmented reality with its catalogues. Last year, Ikea unveiled an AR based app that allowed consumers to digitally place furniture in their homes.