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Build-A-Bear selects Nutanix and partners to reinvent the online shopping experience

Build-A-Bear selects Nutanix and partners to reinvent the online shopping experience

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Missouri-based global retailer Build-A-Bear Workshop has teamed up with Nutanix, Buzz 3D and TierPoint to develop the technology delivering an engaging online shopping experience in a private cloud environment that maximizes performance.


Nutanix, a leader in hybrid multi-cloud computing, has announced that global retail and entertainment company Build-A-Bear Workshop has teamed up with Nutanix, Buzz 3D and TierPoint to develop the technology powering its new Bear Builder 3D Workshop.

This is an interactive online shopping experience that virtually brings furry friends ‘to life’ during the purchasing process.

Mike Early, SVP and Chief Information Officer at Build-A-Bear

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 with a groundbreaking way to purchase a bear for life online 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 optimized for convenience, accelerating time to purchase, but this transactional approach doesn’t emphasize 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.

“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,” said Mike Early, SVP and Chief Information Officer at Build-A-Bear.

“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 maximizes 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 Buzz 3D, 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 buildabear.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 customization of a private cloud environment, with the As-a-Service model of public cloud. It identified data center and cloud services provider TierPoint, running Nutanix HCI software, to achieve this.
It also plans to leverage public cloud services for additional capacity to respond to spikes in traffic.

Rajiv Mirani, Chief Technology Officer 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 Vice President of Product Development, said: “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-Chief Executive Officer 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.”

We asked Mike Early, SVP and Chief Information Officer at Build-A-Bear, further questions to find out more about the project.

Can you explain some of the complexities you needed to overcome at the start of the project?

From a technology perspective, the challenge was to deliver the Bear Builder 3D Workshop experience, which requires large amounts of processing power similar to what is seen in online gaming, to any customer device.

To achieve this, we decided on Nutanix Frame, a DaaS solution that can stream high performance and graphics-intensive applications running on top of the Nutanix Cloud Platform managed by TierPoint to a standard web browser on end-user devices. Via a connection to this environment through our website, customers can have a high-end digital experience regardless of device.

What were the benefits of having the project delivered in a private cloud environment? 

Bear Builder 3D Workshop requires a unique host configuration to support a large number of concurrent users within the 3D store experience. Other competitive cloud configurations are generally not available for the GPUs and software stack required for this particular project. Nutanix and TierPoint built a custom solution that matched our specific needs rather than selecting from pre-configured options that would not have enabled the unique customer experience we wanted to create.

 How has the project maximized your company’s performance?

Bear Builder 3D Workshop allows us to better connect with consumers who are seeking the fun and emotion that comes with our iconic store experience even though they may not be able to visit one of our stores.

How was the project tailored to your requirements?

Nutanix and Tierpoint were able to support our needs for a 3D store experience, requiring large amounts of processing power while accommodating the large number of concurrent users on the site. Tierpoint and Nutanix were able to build a solution that matched our needs instead of having us select a pre-configured option that would not have supported this project. 

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