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Holiday season fuels catalogue creativity

December 10, 2019  By Alyssa Dalton

Customers can now use Apple iOS and Google Android devices to shop Walmart’s newest toy catalogue. The new digitized experience – 'Scan & Shop powered by Digimarc' – is available now and lets customers scan and shop hundreds of toys through the Walmart app.

For many, seasonal catalogues, especially those filled with the latest must-have toys, gadgets and holiday magic, evoke a sense of nostalgia and childhood memories.

Last month Walmart announced its seasonal toy catalogue has been enhanced with Digimarc barcodes that let shoppers scan pages with their smartphones and order items online, marking the retailer’s first catalogue integration with mobile technology. Designed to be a simple ‘scan and shop’ experience, customers with Apple iOS and Google Android devices can now use their phones to shop by activating the barcode scanner in the Walmart app over the desired page. The app will then show a list of toys that can be added to a wish list or online shopping cart.

Scan & Shop powered by Digimarc is featured in 35 million print catalogues available in Walmart’s nearly 4,800 U.S. stores, with millions also mailed to U.S. homes and major omnichannel toy resellers, Digimarc explains.


“Creating convenience for Walmart’s customers was a key priority for this year’s toy catalogue. Through our partnership with Digimarc, we were able to enhance our catalogue with a Scan & Shop option for our customers,” Alvis Washington, Vice President of Marketing, Walmart, says. “This is an exciting new feature that I know will resonate with our customers.”

According to Adobe Analytics research, consumers will boost mobile spending by 20 percent to US$14 billion during this holiday season from a year earlier, making up 36 percent of all online sales. As consumers increasingly rely on their smartphone to purchase holiday gifts – for family, friends and themselves – savvy retailers are working to combine the nostalgia and excitement of flipping through a printed holiday catalogue with the ease of mobile shopping.

For the second consecutive year, Inc. mailed a toy catalogue ahead of the holiday season, instead of relying on all-digital advertising. Titled Play together, the eye-catching 94-page catalogue features hundreds of toys, but they aren’t marked with prices, just QR codes that draw consumers to the Amazon website. There is also a sticker sheet to flag items as well as a mad-libs page that invites children to write out their own holiday wish list.

“Once you turn this page, you’ll enter a world where holiday dreams are made. So stack the cookies high, keep the cocoa toasty, and cozy up together because you’ll definitely want to check this book twice,” reads page 2 of the scannable catalogue.

Tim Curtis, President of direct mail consultancy CohereOne, believes Amazon will soon customize its catalogue based on the recipient’s household if it isn’t already, as quoted in a November 2019 Forbes article by Kiri Masters. “Their roadmap will probably include custom content for each recipient. They know from the size of Halloween costumes we ordered, what are the ages of the children in our household,” he said, noting that the online retailer could even feature certain products based on the TV shows the family watches in their Prime Video account.

“Amazon will surely see positive responses from this. We know from neuroscience that [direct mail] is extremely effective at building an emotional connection with customers and driving demand. Even the stickers in the catalogue — it’s nostalgia. They are doing it right,” Curtis said.

The strategy represents a repeat effort from Amazon to incorporate traditional engagement tools used by brick-and-mortar stores, as analysts speculate the e-commerce giant pivoted to print catalogues last year in a move to capitalize on the July closure of Toys “R” Us stores in the U.S.

Meanwhile north of the border, Toys “R” Us Canada is experimenting with augmented reality (AR) through a new partner-ship with Snapchat. The toy retailer recently published what it says is its most “interactive and creative” Holiday Toy Book, a 44-page booklet with characters and products that “literally pop out from the pages.” A printed version was mailed to more than five million households, while the digital counterpart is available on the Flipp flyer app. Snapchatters simply open the app, use the Snapcode in the Holiday Toy Book to add the lens, and a 3D Geoffrey the Giraffe will guide users through the portal. The retailer is the first in Canada to market the Snapchat Portal Lens, a unique lens designed to give consumers an immersive experience as they interact with the season’s top toys.

“AR is a powerful new technology and we are excited to use it to improve the customer experience,” explains Frank Juhasz, VP Marketing and Omni Channel Innovation at Toys “R” Us Canada. “Through this partnership, we’re able to bring our toys and products to life in new ways. Canadians expect this type of innovation from great retailers and we’re happy to be leading the charge.”

Despite these different innovations, it’s clear the coveted toy catalogue remains a vital part of the holiday shopping experience.


This feature was originally published in the December 2019 issue of PrintAction, now available online.

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