Why Mashable and Walmart Built a 3D Virtual House

Mashable Home, presented by Walmart, is a digital activation featuring shoppable hot spots, live and on-demand programming, and interactive games—all inside an explorable virtual home.

Mashable, Walmart, Virtual Event

Creating a virtual brand activation that actually keeps consumers' attention right now is no easy feat—but Mashable just may have pulled it off this week. 

The tech- and entertainment-focused media brand has teamed up with Walmart to launch Mashable Home, a digital event and activation set inside an immersive, 3D rendering of a house. Consumers can virtually take a 360-degree tour of various rooms and visit shoppable hot spots, as well as discover live and on-demand programming, play interactive games, find links to Mashable content and more.

The concept builds on Mashable House, the brand's popular activation that typically takes place at SXSW in Austin. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve built this legacy IRL experience … and we couldn’t just abandon that for our fans and audience who look forward to it each year,” explained Eva Smith, senior vice president of sales and marketing solutions at Ziff Media Group, which owns Mashable. “As a digitally native brand, it was a no-brainer to take our events strategy virtual, and this felt like the right time to evolve and reach even more fans, create more branding moments and play in an arena where we are experts.”

"Mashable, Walmart, Virtual Event"
In the kitchen, visitors can watch cooking videos where a popular Instagram influencer uses Walmart cooking gadgets.


Mashable has been hosting Social Good Series livestreams over the last year, and had also found success with interactive branded content experiences. So Smith said it was a logical choice to merge the two concepts into one virtual event, which kicked off March 8 and will be accessible until April 8. 

“We reach a uniquely primed consumer audience who is always ready and looking to take action,” she said. "Our audience’s unique mindset prompted us to create a digital event that truly bridges the gap between inspiration and action. By tapping into the growing trend in virtual voyeurism and virtual travel, we wanted to create an escape and immerse our fans in the Mashable world through curiosity and intrigue that would simultaneously inspire them to elevate their at-home experience.”

"Mashable, Walmart, Virtual Event"
When visitors click on a hot spot, links to on-theme Walmart products pop up.


The purpose of the activation is two-fold: It allows longtime Mashable advertiser and partner Walmart to promote its spring collection, and it also creates a portal to Mashable’s content. As visitors explore the virtually rendered 3D home, they can stop in six rooms—the kitchen, living room, bedroom, outdoor space, flex space and garage—to find programming and products surrounding a specific theme. In the kitchen, for example, there are videos about cooking, while the outdoor space has products and links about gardening and the bedroom focuses on meditation and dating. 

“We wanted to capture the essence of the Mashable brand while also paying homage to the new 'at-home' lifestyle in which we all have had to learn to work, rest, shop, create and thrive within the same environment,” explained Smith. 

The experience took two months to develop. Smith said the team started with the backdrop and how they wanted consumers to feel when they walked in, and then layered in the programming concepts room-by-room. The team also used content analytics, purchase data and trends to identify the content and influencers that would resonate most. "We cross-checked everything against the Mashable ‘filter’ to ensure that our programming and design elements embodied Mashable’s core pillars of sustainable living, social good, entertainment and tech culture in a way that our guests can relate to now more than ever," she said. 


"Mashable, Walmart, Virtual Event"
Other sponsors include Dell, which is featured in a “work from home” flex room in the house.


Mashable collaborated with a variety of technology companies to bring the activation to life, most notably OmniSight Interactive, which handled the 3D rendering. “When we started vendor exploration, we encountered two vastly different approaches: the one-stop-shop vendors who did everything but did not have the highest expertise, or niche vendors with very narrow focus areas. Neither of those options fits the bill,” explained Smith, adding that ultimately, OmniSight was chosen because of its ability to fully customize the experience from the ground up.

“We started with a vision, and we were looking for vendors who were willing to help us refine our vision and bring it to life in a way that felt authentic to our brand. OmniSight took our vision and inspiration and made it into a tangible, visceral experience. The home looks so realistic ... [that] most people are shocked to find out that this is not an actual home in the real world."

"Mashable, Walmart, Virtual Event"
The bedroom links to content on online dating, meditation and other on-theme topics and products.


While the house is accessible for a full month, Mashable is using this week to debut new content through a five-day live programming event. “In today’s hyper-connected world, everyone understandably expects instant access and full control over how they spend their time. Still, we also wanted to build an experience that fosters community through live programming,” said Smith. “So we decided that a combination of appointment-based viewing would create that communal, shared experience, while immediately following up with on-demand access to provide our guests with the all-access pass to have full control over what they engage with, when and how.”

An added bonus, according to Smith? “This extended flight also allows us to infuse new content and unexpected Easter eggs to keep fans curious and interested in coming back."

Click here to explore the virtual experience. 

"Mashable, Walmart, Virtual Event"
The garage area highlights sponsor FlashParking, and also includes workout tips, information on EV charging and more.


This story was originally published on Connect's sister site, BizBash.com, here.