Build-A-Bear Workshop Goes High-Tech

Oct 08, 2012

Representing its first overhaul since opening its first store in 1997, Build-A-Bear Workshop unveiled a new concept store in West County Center in St. Louis that combines hands-on bear-making experiences with innovative technology designed to mirrors how kids play today.

"The 10-year-old girl of today is a lot different than the 10-year-old girl of 15 years ago mostly through technology," Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear founder and CEO, told St. Louis Today. "So how we can make this fun and relevant to them?"

The process of moving through various bear-making stations remained fairly the same, but the overall experience gets modernized with some tech spectacle. Among the new features:

  • A kiosk at the front of the store allows kids to play with the digital signage by waving their hands in front of it. Signage is also now able to change with the seasons, holidays or other special events.
  • A new "Love Me" station enables guests to customize their stuffed animals with personality attributes displayed as emoticons on an interactive table. Unique traits, such as cuddly, brave, silly and smart, are then added to their animal’s red satin hearts later in the production process.
  • At the "Hear Me" station, instead of choosing from drawers with different sound chips, guests scroll through a touchscreen to select and load popular hits from current music or animal noises to be incorporated into their stuffed animal.
  • At the Stuff Me station, guests can now add scents such as bubble gum, strawberry, cotton candy, and chocolate chip to their stuffed animal. The scents offered will change by season.
  • The Fluff Me station was updated with the addition of a "water rippling and splashing" digital bathtub. The tub magically recognizes the items as they are placed on it and reacts with sensory effects such as virtual bubbles that appear when play soap is placed on the "water surface."

[Image: Buiild-A-Bear]

Other more subtle changes including reducing the height of the bins of pre-stuffed animals so they are more within the reach of youngsters and separating the bear clothes into different sections for boys and girls

Six other locations featuring the new design will open this year. Some analysts had been calling for at least some changes as Build-A-Bear has posted losses in two of the past three years.

"I think it’s important for them to show that it’s new and fresh without breaking the bank," Sean McGowan, an analyst with Needham & Co., told St. Louis Today.

How do you think adding touchscreens, motion control and other technologies will affect the Build-A-Bear experience for younger consumers? What tech-driven interactive elements do you see making their way across retail?

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7 Comments on "Build-A-Bear Workshop Goes High-Tech"

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Gene Detroyer
9 years 7 months ago

The answer is very simple. Not just for Build-a-Bear, but for any retailer.

Watch a 3 or 4 year old, who is used to using a touch screen, try to turn the page of a paper book by rubbing their finger across the page, until they realize it it is a paper book.

Gordon Arnold
9 years 7 months ago

If it was my decision to make, I would have explored adding voices to the bears giving the child a choice of language, verbiage and lyrics to add. Nevertheless the current modernization is loaded with positives for the young, 21st century consumers. Great job.

Cathy Hotka
9 years 7 months ago

The retail store is evolving into a location where customers can interact with the brand. This is a brilliant example. Kudos to Dave Finnegan and his team.

Lee Kent
9 years 7 months ago

Brilliant! This is something they will need to monitor and tweak as they see how their customer is using. Children can be unpredictable when they start playing.

Matt Schmitt
9 years 7 months ago

The concept store is a great environment for learning, especially when it comes to digital engagement technologies.

If Build-A-Bear can tie together their in-store digital systems with their online and mobile apps, they can create a more engaging omnichannel platform. If the mobile apps (used by kids on their parents tablet for phone) can be a launching point for the experience, there is an opportunity to drive demand and store traffic by creating continuity from the bear building process done before the store visit, and then carried out and further customized on the in-store displays.

It’s great to see an implementation designed to embrace the changing behaviors and expectations of the new generation of shoppers.

Doug Fleener
9 years 7 months ago

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Build-A-Bear store. One of my store managers dragged me down to see the store, and I thought it was just a brilliant concept.

I do think upgrading the experience is vital for the brand to stay relevant with younger consumers. At the same time I think it is important to only use technology to enhance the experience, but not let it overshadow the primary purpose of building a one-of-a-kind stuffed animal.

Rick Boretsky
Rick Boretsky
9 years 7 months ago

Love it! Kids will quickly adapt to this new store format. This is what they do all day long already. Other retailers need to figure how they can be as technologically innovative to keep the interest of their adult clientele.


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