In London, LEGO and Snapchat are partnering on a pop-up shop that combines many concepts that, if not opposite, are not normally associated with each other. It’s a shop, but doesn’t have any merchandise in it – from a quick glance, it’s a blank white room with a single snap code for scanning. The goods for sale, despite the LEGO branding, aren’t building sets or toys, but a line of streetwear themed around LEGO in general – and, specifically, around the new LEGO movie.
LEGO, of course, is best known for toys, but the company does a lot more. Since the early 90s, it has also been selling officially licensed clothing under the LEGO Wear subunit. Danish clothing retailer Kabooki has been a licensed partner and maker of children's apparel for LEGO Wear since 1993. But as of 2019, the fashion brand decided it wanted to sell something new – clothing for adults – and wanted to launch it in a very new way.
"We loved the idea of experimenting with a new and innovative digital customer experience together with the LEGO team," said Birgitte Holgaard Langer, chief operating officer and chief marketing officer at Kabooki. "Approaching the adult fashion audience with this limited-edition clothing line through an AR experience is something we have never done before. We are very excited to see how this new audience will respond to the launch and the AR experience."
And so the augmented reality LEGO Wear pop-up boutique concept was born.
The apparently blank, empty shop was actually home to an AR fashion boutique that was visible on a phone’s screen once the user snapped via the Snap code. Once in the virtual store, users were able to play interactive arcade games, interact with a virtual DJ booth or scuffle with the virtual LEGO figurine bouncers. The entire interior of the shop seemed to be built out of LEGO bricks – the mannequins were LEGO figures, and all the shelves were “built” out of virtual LEGO bricks – and consumers could shop a collection of specialty clothing exclusively available to the virtual pop-up.
Once the customer bought their fill of specialty sweaters, T-shirts and hats, they had the option to check out through a “shop now” feature and then awaited their items.
The physical pop-up shop was only open for one day – and though U.S.-based consumers could visit, only shoppers from the U.K., France and Germany could actually buy goods at the store.
Among the more attractive features of the virtual or AR-enhanced pop-up shop was how portable and clean the concept was. And the virtual LEGO DJ was particularly popular.
"This is an experiment exploring ways to bridge the physical and digital world and engage with fans of the LEGO brand,” Langer noted. “For us, the core experience is still about using imagination to combine bricks in creative ways, and we see technology as an extension and enhancement of the physical experience."
The key, and what consumers’ feedback reflected most clearly, is that the experience had the duel merits of being futuristic and nostalgic. The consumers most attracted to the shop – and most likely to make purchases – all recalled LEGO as a childhood favorite and beloved toy brand.
"We're an innovative, playful brand at heart, and part of that is exploring new digital channels and technologies," said Lea Sandell, social media innovation lead at the LEGO Group. "This was a unique opportunity to collaborate with Kabooki on their brand-new, limited-edition product for adults and tap into both the sense of style and the nostalgia of that audience, while exploring that interesting space where the digital and physical worlds merge."
And though the shop is now closed, with no immediate plans to offer another one, we imagine this falls under the “stay tuned” category. If an AR pop-up succeeded in drawing crowds, it might be the first one the market has seen, but likely won't be the last.