Build-A-Bear reinvents online shopping experience with 3D workshop

A Build A Bear fairy bear.
Build-A-Bear reinvents online shopping experience with 3D workshop
Duncan is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years experience in journalism. Having launched his tech journalism career as editor of Arabian Computer News in Dubai, he has since edited an array of tech and digital marketing publications, including Computer Business Review, TechWeekEurope, Figaro Digital, Digit and Marketing Gazette.

Global retailer Build-A-Bear Workshop has teamed up with multicloud computing firm Nutanix, Buzz3D and TierPoint to develop the tech behind its Bear Builder 3D Workshop, an interactive online shopping experience that virtually brings furry friends to life during the purchasing process.

As a part of the iconic brand’s effort to accelerate its digital transformation, Build-A-Bear began exploring opportunities to create an immersive and engaging online experience that builds on the familiar steps of its retail store experience yet creates something entirely new for the digital space. After the vision was established, Build-A-Bear engaged key technology partners to help bring its concept to reality by leveraging existing technology such as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) in creative new ways. With this first-of-its-kind experience, Build-A-Bear Workshop can now provide consumers a groundbreaking way to purchase a furry friend for life online that delivers real-world hugs to guests of all ages at buildabear.com.

With two-thirds of consumers increasing their online activity because of the pandemic, brands everywhere are looking to deliver the best possible online experience to their customers. Many companies have optimised for convenience and accelerating time to purchase, but this transactional approach does not emphasise consumer engagement. As a company that has always focused on providing an experience that builds an emotional connection to its brand, Build-A-Bear is leading the charge in leveraging Buzz3D and Nutanix technology to expand its business model to include this immersive digital retail experience that goes beyond the transactional process.

Mike Early, SVP and CIO at Build-A-Bear, said: “Our guests’ in-store experience is highly interactive and emotional as they get to create a custom furry friend and bring it to life including our signature Heart Ceremony. Our goal with this project is to translate this connectivity and emotion to the digital world.

“The technology requirements to make this happen were not simple, as we needed enough processing power and speed to support this virtual experience on any device. This is where our partnership with Nutanix, Buzz3D and TierPoint came in, delivering a highly engaging online shopping experience in a private cloud environment that maximises performance and is tailored to our requirements.”

With the retail landscape already shifting prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Build-A-Bear was focused on rethinking existing technology and formed a collaboration with UK company Buzz3D, a UK based, 3D online shopping solutions provider. The rapid acceleration of e-commerce and desire to translate the iconic Build-A-Bear experience for a digital audience resulted in a vision for an interactive shopping experience that would bring the joy and fun of visiting Build-A-Bear Workshop to the online space and appeal to an expanded audience of consumers who are shopping online in record numbers.

After that, the challenge was to deliver this experience, which would require large amounts of processing power, similar to what is seen in online gaming, to any customer device. To achieve this, Build-A-Bear and Buzz3D decided on Nutanix Frame, a Desktop as a Service solution that can stream high performance and graphics-intensive applications running on top of Nutanix private cloud infrastructure to a standard web browser on end users’ devices. Via Frame and an application embedded in Build-A-Bear’s website, consumers will be able to have a high-end digital experience on bulidabear.com whether on a PC or mobile device, without high bandwidth requirements.

To power the Bear Builder 3D Workshop digital experience as well as Nutanix Frame, the company wanted to marry the performance, cost advantages, and customisation of a private cloud environment, with the as-a-service model of public cloud. They identified data centre and cloud services provider TierPoint, running Nutanix HCI software, to achieve this. They also plan to leverage public cloud services for additional capacity to respond to spikes in traffic.

Rajiv Mirani, CTO at Nutanix, said: “Retailers globally are looking at how to reinvent the online shopping experience to elevate it beyond a simple transaction that is mainly focused on cost and to bring similar value and engagement online as they do in-store. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend.

“Just like Build-A-Bear reinvented the in-store shopping experience, I expect others to look at what the company is creating as a model of how to truly engage consumers anywhere and how to leverage technology like Nutanix to enable that.”

Greg Ahlheim, TierPoint senior VP of product development, commented: “Considering the unique host configuration required to deliver Build-a-Bear’s desired online experience to concurrent users, a custom-built private cloud was the perfect choice to anchor this initiative. We applaud Build-a-Bear’s vision for the project and our technology partners’ collaboration in making it a reality.”

Marc Foreman, co-CEO at Buzz3D, said: “We’ve always wanted to bring 3D shopping online, but the technology needed to make it easy for a retailer to scale and deliver their ideal customer experience en masse is only now catching up. Having discovered Nutanix’s Frame technology and the right partner in Build-A-Bear, we are finally able to bring the retail shopping experience online in a truly interactive and immersive way.”

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