Of the successful projects you’ve worked on, which is your favorite, and what steps led to making it a success?”
My favorite has to be a project that is also relevant for the Digital Signage Expo. It’s the reinvention of the Build-A-Bear Workshop retail experience that won Best Retail and Best in Show a few years back. This work was not only recognized by DSE but also led to some stellar business results when rolled out in select locations: Business jumped 20 to 30 percent. In retail, these are amazing figures, and they validated many of the core assumptions that led to the engagement in the first place, namely that the next generation of consumers expect and demand that interaction and personalization be a core part of their brand experience.
Build-A-Bear Workshop, as I was to learn when we began working with them as Creative Director on the project, does not, contrary to logic, sell teddy bears. It sells an experience, one that can be cherished and remembered for a lifetime. Literally, the kids in the store are making their new best friend. The product leadership team had to ensure that we were not overly digitizing what is essentially an analog brand experience.
I believe this project was successful for a variety of reasons, many of them having to do with our visionary clients.
Brandon Elliott, who now works with us at Infusion, was the chief visionary for the technological future of the brand, and he rapidly prototyped out some initial concepts to test the limits of what technology could offer at the time. This work was literally bleeding edge: interactive touch-tables, physical and digital coordination of installations and experiences, along an underlying platform to tie it all together so that as a child went from station to station building their bear, their unique story would build and become more and more personalized.
Dave Finnegan, who is now CXO at Orvis in Vermont, and was CIO at BABW at the time, also owned the vision and helped to ensure that the business was on board with where the experience was headed. Brandon and Dave hired Infusion to help them realize the total vision of the store’s user experience and technology, and the next year would be one of the most rewarding of my professional life.
I have to say that these two were a special breed. They were hands on and very collaborative in helping to create an experience that is STILL not equaled in retail to this day.
So, a summary for the reasons the project was successful:
- Senior level support for the initiative.
- Dedication to ultimately delivering an ROI for the work done.
- A user-first sensibility where rough prototyping (both digital and physical installation) were progressively refined with the input of kids.
- A solid feeling of partnership across Infusion, Microsoft, Samsung and others.
- An agile project lifecycle that let us test, fail, refine, and advance.
- We were doing things no one had done before in retail. That is both terrifying in a way but also lead to a unique consumer experience.