Exploring the Art and Science of Customer Experience with Build-A-Bear®

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear, and discuss how the well-known toy brand and retailer approaches customer experience. The interview was the first for our new show, The Customer Experience Show, which is a partnership between North Highland and The CEO Show, hosted by myself and Robert Reiss, founder of The CEO Show.

Every parent, including me, is familiar with Build-A-Bear. It truly is a unique experience to enter one of their stores and go through the process of building a brand new stuffed animal, or furry friend. It was experiential retail long before there was such a thing. One of the most interesting tidbits that Sharon shared is that the heart ceremony was not included in the original concept, but added later based on insight that customers weren’t having as intimate an experience as the brand desired. Today, when the heart is provided to a child, they are asked to warm it up, run with it to make their new friend strong or hold the heart against their head to make it smart, and to make a wish on the heart before it goes into the bear. With this change, what was just a stuffed animal is now a furry best friend and is an iconic part of the brand experience.

This is a great example of how Build-A-Bear approaches every decision by keeping three things in mind:

  1. Is it consumer-centric? Is the customer at the center of our thought process?
  2. Does this build or further enhance our existing brand?
  3. Do we have data to back-up our hypothesis? Is it data-driven?

This philosophy has enabled the brand to remain consistent across all its consumer touch-points, while still providing a hi-touch, unique experience. Sharon kept these pillars central while she set out to return Build-A-Bear to profitability. She knew it was critical to keep the brand central in all of her decision making. Recognizing the strength of the brand was a key determinant for how to change the environment and issues that were really business challenges, not brand ones.

You can listen to our full interview Sharon and learn more about how Build-A-Bear has reinvented the retail customer experience by visiting www.customerexperienceshow.com or our YouTube channel.

Upcoming guests on The Customer Experience Show include: Ron Losby, President of Steinway & Sons, and Adam Goldstein, President of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. so be sure to check back for new audio and blog posts!

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