The lockdowns and store closures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic were particularly hard on experiential retailers like Build-A-Bear, with its signature bear-making experience a key part of in-person sales. However, the brand adapted to the changes in brick-and-mortar retail, in part by turning its stores into microfulfillment centers and also by bringing its signature bear-making experience online in November 2021.
Build-A-Bear also eagerly embraced metaverse opportunities, and its latest is a Roblox environment, Build-A-Bear Tycoon, with elements that connect to the retailer’s physical stores, including special codes for in-experience redemption through stores and marketing channels. Tycoon users can earn “Bear Bucks” digital currency by building out their own tycoon and using the currency to unlock and bring to life collectible “furry friends” that can be customized in unique outfits and accessories.
The retailer worked with Gen Z Roblox creators at Gamefam to create a world that engages its online community and further deepens an emotional connection to the brand. Build-A-Bear’s strategic decision to launch a new tycoon experience aligns with the retailer’s digital transformation strategy, which includes bringing the brand to life in the metaverse via UGC gaming.
“Fabulous experiences are the heart of our brand with its rich history of creativity, empowerment and personalization,” said Sharon Price, President and CEO of Build-A-Bear in a statement. “This anticipated entry into the metaverse with Build-A-Bear Tycoon on Roblox provides a fantastical venue for users and fans across ages to create their own Build-A-Bear virtual world, including our beloved ‘workshop’ and other amazing — and sometimes unexpected — locations, along with furry friend companions to join the fun.”
A number of retailers have begun exploring the metaverse for commerce opportunities: in March 2022, PacSun opened an interactive mall within Roblox, and Forever 21 introduced a metaverse collection on the platform earlier in December.