Listen To Build-A-Bear’s CEO Talk About Her Customer Experience Strategy

Build-A-Bear Workshop is known for its unique and immersive in-store experience. As the name implies, customers get to build their own bear or fuzzy friend from start to finish, even filling it with stuffing, adding a heart, and giving it a name.

That great experience doesn’t happen by accident and isn’t something the CEO takes for granted.

Build-A-Bear Workshop CEO Sharon Price John says customer experience is woven into the brand’s DNA. So much of why Build-A-Bear exists is because of a goal to elevate the customer experience. Customers walk away with a new stuffed animal, but that’s not the entire transaction. Price John says it’s about empowering customers to create something uniquely theirs.

But as customers evolved and shopping changed, especially during the pandemic, Build-A-Bear realized it needed to undergo a digital transformation. The challenge became how to take a brand built around a specific in-store experience and transfer that to a digital space.

Price John says the company relied on customer feedback to drive its digital transformation. Customers didn’t want to necessarily re-create the in-store experience online but wanted ways to connect with the brand and purchase new items virtually.

The Build-A-Bear brand is built around relationships, creativity, and memories. The company wanted that to come through on the website, even as customers came for different purposes. The digital transformation team intentionally created a website that did more than just manage inventory.

Every decision ties back into the brand filters of being brand-building, customer-centric, and data-driven. Price John encourages her team to regularly ask three key questions: Is this on brand? Does it serve customers? Is it backed by data?

With that mindset, Build-A-Bear underwent a digital transformation to build a website and digital tools that make it easy for customers to find the items they need without losing the brand identity. Customers looking to find the newest accessories quickly can get them in bundles that are easy to find, while other customers can build stuffed animals from scratch with a virtual experience similar to the in-store version.

Because Build-A-Bear is an emotional brand, Price John says customers are eager to share their stories and feedback. And those insights help the brand refine its experience, both in store and online. Going through a digital transformation helps the brand stay in touch with modern customers without losing touch with its roots.


Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist and the bestselling author of The Customer of the FutureFor regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here

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