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Build-A-Bear exec claims QR codes alter repeat in-store experiences

NEW YORK ? A Build-A-Bear Workshop executive at the 2013 MultiScreen Summit said that QR codes on marketing pieces such as direct mail and Web give consumers an incentive to come in-store to unlock customized content.

The executive?s keynote session presented a look at how the retailer is using mobile and digital elements to elevate the shopping experience. Build-A-Bear is specifically using mobile to target its core group of girls aged 8 ? 10 years old, who are increasingly becoming more tech-savvy.

?This is a storytelling medium if you think about it, so the real interesting question is can the story change every time you come back, and the answer is yes,? said Dave Finnegan, chief interactive and information officer at Build-A-Bear, St. Louis.

?What we?ve done is create a series of QR codes,? he said.

?Now a typical QR code is on a poster and you have to have an app to scan it. We?ve turned that completely around and said, ?We?ll deliver to your phone a QR code that you bring into the store, and when you bring it into the store and hold it in front of one of these experiences, it unlocks an entire new experience.'?

In-store mobile opportunity
QR codes play a strong role in how Build-A-Bear leverages mobile to help tell a story.
For example, Build-A-Bear used QR codes for a marketing push around Earth Day as well as for birthday campaigns.

Consumers can play online games or are sent direct mail pieces with a QR code on it that encourage consumers to come in-store to unlock an adventure.

When the consumer scans the QR code in-store, a digital and customized experience opens up additional content for consumers.

The company has just started two different QR code campaigns, and it is too early to determine results.

Education and communicating to children how they can use QR codes in-store is going to be one of the biggest challenges around the initiative, according to Mr. Finnegan.

?How do you tell them that for the first time in the history of retail they can unlock content?? Mr. Finnegan.

?That will take a little bit of time, but I think they get it straight-away,? he said.

App happy
Build-A-Bear also has a strong focus on mobile applications.

The retailer has a portfolio of apps that go along in creating digital in-store touch points.
For example, there is an app that leverages sound, and there is also a series of apps ? called bear care apps ? that bring products to life in-store through augmented reality. The apps help children take care of their bears.

The executive also said that the retailer is launching some game apps later this year.

One example is an app that lets consumers record life events that they can then bring into the store to create a bear by scanning a QR code.

Over the past three years, there has been a dramatic shift in how Build-A-Bear?s core consumers of girls aged 8-10 years old use mobile and digital devices.

In some cases, children might come into a store with an iPod Touch, for example.

In other cases, parents are passing off their older-generation mobile devices to their children.

?Instead of buying an iPod Touch, I give my kid my iPhone, and it?s an iPod Touch,? Mr. Finnegan said.

?For our demographic ? moms and kids ? we think it?s about 95 percent penetration into access to smart technology,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York