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Build-A-Bear’s 350K in-app sessions highlight importance of additive digital experiences

Build-A-Bear has seen more than 350,000 play sessions take place since rolling out its Promise Pets application, proving that its customers are increasingly looking for ways to engage with the brand’s products via digital means.

The retailer’s second quarter results revealed it is aiming to engage in continued improvements to develop integrated marketing programs that will result in higher price points, fuel add-on purchases and offer a play experience beyond its plush toys. Offering a branded mobile app to coincide with its Promise Pets collection ensures that users will likely want to accumulate all of the featured toys and will foster a deeper relationship with the brand.

“We see our mobile app strategy as a way to create additional value for parents who decide to purchase furry friends from Build-A-Bear Workshop’s newest lines of intellectual property, including Promise Pets, Honey Girls and Merry Mission,” said Brian Sawyer, senior managing director of digital at Build-A-Bear, St. Louis, MO.

“Creating additional value for our guests is essential to the Build-A-Bear brand, and all three apps reinforce both online and offline play rather than an additional equity opportunity for the brand.”

The ecommerce push
Build-A-Bear’s consolidated ecommerce sales jumped by 11.4 percent in the second quarter, proving that offering purchasing options on desktop, tablet and mobile devices is paramount. This is especially useful for consumers who do not have one of the brand’s bricks-and-mortar stores in the vicinity.

The retailer is also hoping to continue its targeted efforts to market to the core demographic of three to 12-year-old customers. It hopes to grow sales among these consumers by focusing on categories such as gift-giving and collectibles.

The core demographic typically over-indexes on less price-sensitive online purchases or giftable products, lending more credence to the development of Build-A-Bear’s ecommerce business.

Mobile serves as an optimal way to continue driving engagements with its fans, especially as it rolls out age-appropriate applications that users can play on their own smartphones or their parents’ devices.

“Build-A-Bear currently has three mobile apps in the marketplace: Promise Pets, Honey Girls, and Merry Mission,” Mr. Sawyer said. “We plan to continue to update each app with new content to coincide with product updates that roll out in stores and online.

“As our physical products evolve, it’s important to continue to evolve the story on our apps and continue to be engaging storytellers in mobile channels.”

Capitalizing on Promise Pets
In April, Build-A-Bear attempted to fluff up its mobile focus by leveraging its relationship with adoptable pets database Petfinder to roll out an app that offers children realistic pet play experiences while providing lessons about pet ownership and responsibility (see story).

The Promise Pets app aims to teach its core target audience of children about the responsibilities of pet ownership by starting users off as “Pet Care Rookies,” where they will ascend through five certification levels until they earn “Pet Care Pro” status.

The app has seen more than 350,000 play sessions occur since launch, showcasing the power of offering an additive experience to the toy-purchasing process.

Users are able to have a constant connection with the Build-A-Bear brand as they learn about pet care. The app also offers Build-A-Bear the possibility of adding features for monetization.

For example, players could purchase additional amenities for their virtual pets with a certain amount of points. The retailer could also offer a mobile coupon to any user who excels in caring for their pet, to be used online or at a bricks-and-mortar store on a future purchase.

“The Promise Pets app continues to play an important part in our larger app strategy, and the consumer response has exceeded our expectations,” Mr. Sawyer said. “We’re particularly excited with customer engagement rates on the app, as well as play patterns.

“The way users engage with the Promise Pets app helps build on the larger brand story for the plush animals. Through the Promise Pets app, we’re able to merge the physical world with a virtual one, so kids can learn more about nurturing and caring for their puppy or kitten on the app while playing with their plush friend in real life.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York