Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Data Grab

J and her friend B had a Build A Bear gift card each to redeem so us moms took them over to the store the first Saturday after the holiday season when the weather was nice. This was my first time at Build A Bear and I came away fascinated by the experience. The idea is customers will pay for the experience and the stage craft of the store and return for more. The hooks and inducements certainly seemed to be doing the trick. There are many repeat customers and first timers are certainly tempted to return.
You select the "bear" you want to build, take it to the stuffing station and have it stuffed to your liking (soft or firm or in-between) but the neatest trick is the heart you get to thrown into it for free with a cute wish making ceremony that appeared to be hit with the girls. You wash the bear, outfit it , get a birth certificate made and check out.
The birth certificate stage is the data collection point - a kid could virtually give all their demographic data away in less than ten clicks if the adult accompanying them is not mindful of what is going on. It just would not occur to a child that they don't need to provide the any of the information being requested or pretend to be an Albanian great grand-mother. The brilliance of the strategy is undeniable.

Again at the time of check out, the cashier will ask to verify physical and email address. Then there is a slew of slick brochure-ware to entice the customer to go on- line at and bring their creation to life, play games and such. It reminded me of lines from a poem we learned as kids 

"Will you walk into my parlour?"
Said the spider to the fly;
"'Tis the prettiest little parlour
That ever you did spy.
The way into my parlour
Is up a winding stair;
And I have many curious things
To show you when you're there."
"Oh, no, no," said the little fly;
"To ask me is in vain;
For who goes up your winding stair
Can ne'er come down again."

The bear workshop is the parlor and the marketing strategists are the spiders trapping their hapless child-fly victims in mind boggling numbers. No matter how hard and expensive it was to work up this recipe, it is certainly paying rich dividends. Having been on both the data acquisition and analysis side of things to help with behavior based marketing for several years now, I find it easy to see the huge value of the data that Build A Bear is collecting. What bothered me most was that the party giving up their information was not even informed enough of the consequences of what they were giving away.

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