Retail & E-CommerceAR experiencesAugmented Reality

Mobile AR Christmas Returns to Westfield Shopping Centers

The Holiday Hunt is back, thanks to the magic of mobile AR.


Once again it is the Christmas season at Westfield Shopping Centers and once again the season is being ushered in with mobile AR in the form of the “Holiday Hunt.” The experience is festive fun but this year it includes some financial benefits for savvy shoppers as well.

To learn more about this year’s experience, including how and why it differs from last year’s experience, we talked with Loren Miller. Miller is the SVP of US Media and Strategic Partnerships for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), the property management company behind Westfield shopping centers.

You Remember the Holiday Hunt

Last year’s Holiday Hunt, which provided materials call “the world’s first web-based augmented reality scavenger hunt,” was a success. An invention to bring some festivities back to the holidays during the first COVID-19 winter, the mobile AR event returns with some changes.

See Also:  How Augmented Reality in Retail Shopping Boosts Business Growth

“The Westfield ‘Holiday Hunt’ was created as a unique experience last year to engage shoppers in a fun and contactless way,” said Miller. “The hunt brought the spirit of the holiday season across our portfolio through 3D characters designed to surprise and delight guests in our centers.”

This year’s Holiday Hunt mobile AR experience is launched through a similar QR code activation and features some of the same activities that shoppers enjoyed last year, namely holiday-themed selfie lenses and festive 3D characters including dancing gingerbread people and reindeer. But this year, there’s added utility to the fun thanks to a new project partner.

What’s New This Year?

The first event was created by 8th Wall and COFFEE Labs. Together they created the scavenger hunt experience that generated filters and effects as well as AR characters, all using QR code-based mobile AR on a shopper’s smart device. Both studios returned to the project this year with Afterpay.

afterpay hidden helpers westfield 2021

Afterpay is an online payment system that allows users to pay for purchases over time. The involvement in the mobile AR experience adds a more directly commercial aspect, but the company also brought their own creativity.

“Afterpay is making the whole experience more fun by bringing their ‘Hidden Helpers’ 2D creative characters from their advertising into the experience,” said Miller. “Each ‘Hidden Helper’ unlocks an offer that can be redeemed at the brand’s location in our center, which ultimately helps support physical shopping sales for our tenants and Afterpay’s retailers.”

Those 2D Holiday Helpers were given an extra dimension by COFFEE Labs so that they fit the existing aesthetic of the experience, which is all still powered by 8th Wall’s mobile AR prowess.

“We’ve enhanced the program by including more integration of our Digital Out-of-Home network this year – The Westfield Network – promoting the QR codes on Afterpay creative while maintaining the whimsical and holiday fun of the core program,” said Miller.

Mobile AR in Westfield Shopping Centers

The participation of retailers was also a deciding factor in the changes to this year’s event. The more ambitious hunt is being offered at nine locations around the country based on retailer participation in last year’s event:

  • Montgomery – Bethesda, MD
  • Garden State Plaza – Paramus, NJ
  • Southcenter – Seattle, WA
  • Topanga – Los Angeles, CA
  • The Village at Topanga – Los Angeles, CA
  • Santa Anita – Los Angeles, CA
  • Valley Fair – San Jose, CA
  • Galleria at Roseville – Sacramento, CA
  • UTC – San Diego, CA

You may notice that there are fewer locations than were participating last year. That is part of a goal to bring the best possible experience to the areas that most actively embraced it last year – not a sign that URW is losing interest in mobile AR. In fact, they are more involved than ever and already looking forward to the new year.

mobile AR experience - Westfield Hidden Helpers - 8th Wall, COFFEE Labs, Afterpay

“We absolutely see this experience, and experiences like this, having legs in the post-pandemic world. We are seeing an influx of clients coming to us to create these premium, hybrid experiences that connect digital to physical touchpoints,” said Miller. “We are also excited about what 2022 has in store, we will be testing new, cutting-edge digital concepts on The Westfield Network and our physical spaces to support retailers and partners in the coming year.”

A Great Opportunity With More to Come

The Holiday Hunt is ongoing now and will continue through December 25 at the locations listed above. If you’re in the neighborhood of any of the participating shopping centers, check it out. Even if you aren’t in a position to see this event this time, look forward to more mobile AR in more locations next year.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.