December 16, 2023

How to Design the Best Augmented Reality Retail Experience for Kids and Families

June 18, 2020

How to Design the Best Augmented Reality Retail Experience for Kids and Families

Using new technology to attract and retain customers to stores is top-of-mind for many retailers. But how do you design an engaging, playful in-store experience for kids and families?

Together with Coop Sweden, one of the largest grocery chains in Sweden, and Information Experience, an innovative platform using AR and VR to bring 3D models to construction, we set out to solve this question.

We wanted to give parents a shopping experience where they feel more relaxed and less stressed, and kids an experience where they have more fun while being involved in daily tasks such as getting groceries.

Key Learnings

  • You can’t always design the experience after the technology’s “best practice”. You need to design the experience after kids' behaviors, and adapt and apply the technology thereafter.
  • Consumer-focused indoor navigation is a new, untouched field. An iterative, risk-taking mindset is needed. Embrace the challenges - they will come!
  • The digital opportunities for retailers to create engaging experiences is massive. Step out of your comfort zone. Dare to innovate if you want to win.

Core Design Principles

When designing games for kids the key to an engaging experience is to have a kids-first-approach. In our world, that means two things.

1. Design with Empathy (& Humor)

Put yourself in the shoes of a child. How do kids play? What do they find fun and exciting? What platforms are they on? Most importantly, have you asked them?

In the end, if kids don’t find it playful and engaging, then whatever cool, innovative technology you’re using won’t matter.

2. Design Age-appropriately

A 4-year old and a 6-year old are very different in terms of their cognitive, physical and emotional capabilities. This will affect the user interface and game design, especially when dealing with Augmented Reality (AR).

You want the child to feel confident in her ability to play the game, yet give enough “challenges” and appropriate feedback so she feels engaged.

Applying Design Principles in a Retail Setting

Supermarkets offer large play areas, similar to playing outdoors. We immediately stepped into the mind of a 6 year old, and started brainstorming different ways we would play outdoors: Tag, Capture the flag, Pokemon Go, Hide-and seek and other made-up adventures like scavenger hunts. Those are all fun!

While thinking of outdoor play, we also had to keep in mind that navigating large stores and finding ingredients can be challenging. It sometimes leaves us feeling frustrated and stressed, and we didn’t want this to happen to kids because then we’d lose their interest...

Augmented Reality + Scavenger Hunt = Success!

That’s when the idea of a mobile Augmented Reality (AR) recipe scavenger hunt was born. It’s an engaging game concept for kids that comes with great educational bonuses.

Scavenger hunts help with developing i) problem-solving skills, ii) teamwork and iii) connecting body and mind.

Still, we knew that this would be a challenging task... Indoor navigation from a customer-focused perspective had never been done in this environment before, and it had to be made fun!

How will kids find it engaging?

Storytelling and imaginative play is key to kids' engagement. Therefore we designed the game around five animated characters: a dog, a cat, an owl, a rabbit or a horse.

These characters know the store by heart and sit on important clues. They become kids' "secret detectives", meaning kids are the only ones that can see the character in the store as they are projected using AR.

The task is to follow the character to reach the different ingredients, and eventually collect all needed for the recipe. When a child reaches an ingredient the character will cheer, jump, dance or do a silly move like headbanging. It’s all about the surprises!

Finding the right technology

Navigating large spaces with flawless precision requires powerful technologies. In our case, we also needed a solution that could deliver a consistent tracking for distances down to a few meters or less. We didn’t want kids to end up at cucumbers when they were looking for tomatoes. We also wanted to ensure a safe play-experience for kids and their surroundings.

Finding a powerful technology that could support this was not easy. The indoor setting did not make things easier. It took us a couple of months and many hours of testing and iterating until we struck gold.

We ended up with Microsoft’s Azure Spatial Anchors. With Azure Spatial Anchors, we are able to provide a consistent navigation experience even in large indoor spaces such as a Coop supermarket. The technology continuously checks and adjusts the position to deliver a precise navigation throughout the store.

To further support accurate navigation we installed a system for image tracking. When starting the mobile game the user is encouraged to point the camera to an image on the floor, which informs the app about the user’s starting location. That way we could achieve a fast, high precision “fix” of the store map before starting the scavenger hunt.

What happens next?

The AR-game, Peppy Pals Recipe Scavenger Hunt, is currently running on a pilot in two of Coop’s stores. We’ll continue to collect user input, and most likely iterate the game experience a handful of times more to end up at the best possible in-store experience.