Bringing Joy to Millions - Build-A-Bear Accelerates and Amplifies Digital Transformation

December 7, 2021 | min

Bringing Furry Friends to Life

With nearly 500 interactive brick-and-mortar retail locations, Build-A-Bear Workshop has been instrumental in delivering its mission to “add a little more heart to life,” for children and adults alike. By providing consumers the means to create “furry friends'' with a personalized touch both in-store and online, the brand has given guests a way to celebrate and commemorate life’s milestones and precious moments.

The emergence of COVID-19 sent shockwaves throughout the retail sector as brick-and-mortar locations were forced to temporarily close, leading more retailers to look for ways to translate their in-store shopping experience online.  Build-A-Bear was ahead of the game, already working on its recently launched Bear Builder 3D Workshop, an immersive online platform that allows consumers to shop online in an engaging and creative way, building on the known steps of its retail store process and then delivering the customized furry friend right to the front door.  Build-A-Bear was determined to accelerate the launch of this next step in its digital transformation to deliver a revolutionary and unique interactive make-your-own virtual experience.

Accelerating Digital Transformation

Build-A-Bear had a vision to create something truly innovative and began its journey by exploring the right technologies to allow the creation of an interactive and engaging online experience that reflected certain aspects of the iconic bear-building process for which they have become known. The brand’s challenge was to create a meaningful consumer experience with a nod to its known process while also adding new elements to create something distinctive in the digital space. In addition, the platform must be able to support high transaction volume. After establishing their vision, the Build-A-Bear team connected with key technology partners to help bring their concept to life by leveraging existing technology such as hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) in creative new ways.

The first key technology partner was UK-based Buzz 3D, which provides retail companies with a virtual rendering of a physical space for store planning and development purposes. The Buzz 3D team helped Build-A-Bear rethink their existing technology to deliver the quality experience that its team was seeking. This project required large amounts of processing power, similar to what is seen in online gaming. To achieve this, Build-A-Bear decided on Nutanix Frame, a Desktop-as-a-Service solution that can stream high performance and graphics-intensive applications to a standard web browser on end users’ devices. Via Frame and an application embedded in Build-A-Bear’s website, consumers can have a high-end digital experience at Bear Builder 3D Workshop on whether on a PC or mobile device, without high bandwidth requirements.

To run the application, they needed a platform that was performant, reliable, and cost effective. They selected the Nutanix Cloud Platform, based on industry-leading HCI, which integrates compute, virtualization, storage, networking, security, and containers, significantly simplifies day to day management of a company’s IT environment 一 including over 80% faster deployment and less unplanned downtime, as well as nearly 60% more efficient infrastructure management 一 often resulting in significant cost savings and freeing IT’s time to focus on strategic efforts.

The Nutanix Cloud Platform delivers a private cloud with a unique host configuration and advanced network security – designed, built, and managed by datacenter and cloud services provider TierPoint. This infrastructure solution helped Build-A-Bear power the digital experience, marrying the performance, cost advantages, and customization of a private cloud environment with the as-a-service model of public cloud. 

Recreating a Classic Experience

With a quality user experience backed by new technology in place, Bear Builder 3D Workshop is now ready to digitally expand the personal experiences that over 200 million consumers had come to know and love over the years. In the digital process, guests can choose from several furry friends featured in Cub Condos®. Once selected, the furry friend is whisked away for a fun trip down the Rainbow Slide to the digital 3D Stuffer. Guests then click and drag clouds of stuffing into the furry friend until it is fully stuffed and ready to hug. This is followed by their world-famous Heart Ceremony, during which guests can make a wish on the furry friend’s heart to officially bring it to life! After being brushed and fluffed, the furry friend then dances over to the Wonder Wardrobe, which offers a wide variety of clothing and accessories to personalize and create a unique and fashionable look. The next stop is the Hear Me Station, which provides guests with the chance to add a sound or a song. To complete the process, guests fill out a birth certificate including giving a name to their furry friend. 

Everyone was affected by the pandemic in one way or another. During times of social distancing and lockdowns, many people felt the impact close to home. Hugging friends, family members, and loved ones became a difficult task for many with the health risks at stake. Build-A-Bear’s dedicated efforts to accelerate their digital transformation will allow many more consumers to spread love, share joy, and send hugs by virtue of “furry friends.” The team’s decision to improve its infrastructure was one that meant far more than an investment in technology - in the end, it was an investment that truly will “add a little more heart” to the lives of its customers.

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