Toys ‘R’ Us Hopes Playrooms & Augmented Reality Stations Will Bring Customers Back

Image courtesy of The Caldor Rainbow

If Toys ‘R’ Us is going to survive its recent bankruptcy filing and prevent a domino effect of debt throughout the toy industry, the retailer will need to get shoppers into stores and buying things. The company is hoping that making its stores more interactive for customers — including try-before-you-buy playrooms — will help put it back on the path to solvency.

USA Today reports that in an effort to get customers through the door Toys ‘R’ Us today debuted an augmented reality experience at 23 of its stores.

The new system, which will hit all stores Oct. 21, is intended to “transform the experience of coming into a Toys ‘R’ Us bricks and mortar store and turn it into something that’s quite different an a lot more fun,” CEO Dave Brandon tells USA Today.

A New Experience

Through the new program, Toys ‘R’ Us stores will feature 13 different stations that can be unlocked with a customer’s smartphone or tablet.

To begin the experience, the retailer’s mascot, Geoffrey the giraffe, greets customers virtually and gives them instructions on how to play.

Shoppers are then guided to the AR stations via flashing icons and stickers on the floor. Once guests reach the station, they use their phone or tablet to scan a sign on the shelf. Once the scan is complete, a toy or activity will come to life on the screen.

For example, if a customer visits the sporting goods station, they can scan the sign and a basketball will appear. They can then move the ball around their screen, through a hoop, and score points. They can then compare scores with others playing the game.

USA Today reports that each activity completed provides shoppers with stars, and the more stars you get the more experiences you can test.

Trying It Out First

In another attempt to get customers into stores and away from online rivals, USA Today reports that Toys ‘R’ Us let customers test out toys before buying them.

Starting this fall, the company will open playrooms at 42 stores with the aim of letting children try out games and gadgets, and watch demonstrations.

Brandon tells USA Today that work on the new AR stations and future playrooms began before the company filed for bankruptcy two weeks ago.

While he cautions that neither initiative will be able to completely turn around the retailer’s business, he believes it will get customers in the door.

“A lot of people hear the word bankruptcy and they immediately conclude that the brand or the company is going to go away,” Brandon said.

That’s not the case for Toys ‘R’ Us, Brandon notes, adding that the retailer will have full shelves during the holiday season and after.