Build-A-Bear’s Digital Transformation Brings Paw-sitive Results

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 16 Nov 2021

Since 1997, Build-A-Bear has inspired smiles and created a highly-engaged retail experience. Now, the toy store is taking things online. But how can you build a bear via a screen? 

The US-based toy retailer is famous for its hands-on toy building experience. Consumers are able to pick and choose every element of the bear they wish to produce, right down to the stuffing of the toy. Personalised teddy bears have become a mainstay in the toy category, and the business has carved a firm spot in the industry.

In the last quarter, Build-A-Bear reported revenue of USD94.7 million, an increase of 134.7 percent compared to FY20. This is a further 19.6 percent jump from FY19. In fact, this latest quarter is the “strongest first six months performance in its nearly 25-year history”, the company read.

A considerable factor that helped drive this record performance was its digital acceleration. While its core strategy centres around brick-and-mortar, when the pandemic hit, the business had to rely on digital sales almost entirely. Right now, the online toy industry is flourishing. According to IBISWorld, the online toy market is valued at $28 billion in the US alone, increasing by 4.6 percent in 2021.

As a result of its digital transformation, consolidated e-commerce demand increased by 158.9 percent compared to FY19, but saw a slight decrease of 27.8 percent in FY20. Of course, in 2020, the primary source of revenue for the business was e-commerce, so this drop off in online sales was to be expected as traditional retail re-opened in 2021.

“We made progress in each area of strategic focus with the acceleration of our digital transformation including content and entertainment initiatives, the advancement of our retail capabilities and experiences while maintaining a solid financial position to support our business and future growth,” said the CEO of President of Build-A-Bear, Sharon Price John.

But even as brick-and-mortar stores open again, Build-A-Bear is expanding on the experience it offers for online shoppers, making the e-commerce checkout process as personalised as in-store.

So, how can you really build a bear online, and make it as fun as in-store? With dancing bears, fun music and the chance to ‘stuff’ the bear using fluffy clouds, of course. The Build-A-Bear 3D workshop is described as a ‘unique animated e-commerce shopping experience’, allowing the users to ‘build’ their favourite toys online.

via Build a Bear

The retailer worked in collaboration with Buzz 3D to develop an interactive platform where users can ‘stuff’ the bears, dress them, and complete the ‘magical heart ceremony’ – an integral part of the in-store process.

The shopper enters the platform and is given a wide selection of bears to choose from. Once the bear is selected, it is taken to the stuffing process. Users drag clouds to the bear, ‘filling’ it up bit by bit. They then get to choose the heart, brushing and fluffing the digital bear, before choosing the clothing and accessories. Just like in-store, guests are invited to give the bear a birth certificate and choose a name, before the user is redirected to the site to complete the transaction.

via Build-A-Bear

This is a fun and immersive experience, which Build-A-Bear’s CEO explained is an integral part of the retailer’s core ethos.

“The retail landscape has been shifting as consumers have increasingly moved to online shopping. Our aim is to meet guests where and how they prefer to shop. Because we are a high-engagement brand, we wanted to develop an interactive, digital shopping option that not only delivered on our iconic in-store process but offered a dynamic experience to create your own furry friend,” said Sharon Price John.

“E-commerce has traditionally been more transactional, but we believe Build-A-Bear is the perfect brand to break the mould by adding more fun and engagement to online shopping as we continue to execute our digital transformation strategy.”

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