In 30 days, the store of the future arrives for Build-A-Bear Workshop. The launch comes after a nearly two-year effort of collaboration between Build-A-Bear and its partners to leverage new technology in its stores, build on existing features that are already beloved by children and their parents, and deliver even more sparkle to an already magical customer experience.
Magic was the theme for Founder and CEO Maxine Clark and CIO Dave Finnegan in this morning’s presentation at NRFtech: the IT Leadership Summit. When Build-A-Bear Workshop was first conceived by Clark 15 years ago, it was a creative concept with a built-in recipe for delivering a powerful, unique customer experiences. Customers could build their own customized product, and in the process they willingly provided the company with a lot of information about themselves, which was used to develop strong relationships that helped Build-A-Bear deliver a personal, one-of-a-kind experience.
As leaders of the company, the executives themselves seem to be delighted by the opportunity to please kids with their stores, and that focus on the customer experience is what’s driving their vision of the store of the future. The company weighs the input of children and their moms equally, and even appoints “cub advisors” who provide constant feedback on Build-A-Bear products and services.
While the specifics of the latest store updates are under wraps until the launch, Clark and Finnegan spoke generally about the project. Clark said that in designing the store of the future, they went back to the original commitment of the company.
“It’s not about the technology,” Finnegan said. “Technology plays a crucial role, but it’s about creating a personal, magical connection with customers.”
And those personal connections are important to the success of the project as well. It’s essential to lock arms with your CMO and COO, said Finnegan, because good relationships with your executive team are essential to unlocking the potential of technology. At Build-A-Bear, the CMO and CIO share projects, goals, budgets and even interview each others team members. Those partnerships and shared vision must extend to partners as well, because as they say at Build-A-Bear Workshop, “it takes a village to build a bear.”
During the process, Finnegan challenged his team to go back to the initial launch of Build-A-Bear, before much of today’s technology existed, to truly understand why the concept of Build-A-Bear Workshop works so well. The team didn’t start with the hows and whys of technology, it started with ideas that add to the brand experience, and worked backwards to engineer it.
So what will customers soon find in the St. Louis Build-A-Bear? The details weren’t revealed, but touch screens and gesture recognition technology will play a part. Clark said the idea was to make the technology fit naturally into the experience so it feels normal and natural for today’s tech-savvy kids. We’re excited to see the concept grow and evolve as it’s rolled out in more stores over time.