In 1999, Build-A-Bear Workshop had 7 stores, a website and a dream of providing consumers worldwide with an entertaining and interactive experience that would change the way customized toys and gifts are made. Chief Executive Bear Maxine Clark contacted Voice Express wishing to create a voice recorder accessory for her teddy bears. Today Build-A-Bear Workshop is a a leader in the interactive retail space and a New York Stock exchange company (NYSE:BBW) with annual revenues of over $300 million, and with over 170 stores in North America and another 12 international stores.

Voice Express sold BABW over 40 million Build-A-Sound™ voice recorders and a growing number of pre-recorded sounds such as ELMO, RUDOLPH and others. Build-A-Sound™™ has become a signature offer which, especially during peak holiday seasons, drives the sales of Plush as a personalized gift item.

Voice Express has provided BABW with an integrated solution for both their traditional retail outlets as well as their web store. Retail customers select a skin -“Choose Me”- then select a pre-recorded or patented Build-A-Sound™ recorder -“Hear Me”- and then proceed to the patented stuffing, stitching and fluffing station before further accessorizing their custom plush toy or gift. Web store guests are given the option of adding a Build-A-Sound™ to their plush, even before they have completed their transaction. Studies have shown that once a prospective customer records a message, they have a sense of ownership in the product and are more likely to complete their purchase.

Although BABW was offered various options for their website customers to record a personal message, they have found that customers feel most comfortable with using a standard telephone with a user-friendly and familiar voice menu which permits the customer to “record,” “review,” “re-record” and save their message. When the customer chooses to record a message, a pop-up window is launched which provides a toll-free number and BABW’s order number to enter. Once the customer has recorded their message the pop-up screen is closed and the customer is right where they left off on the BABW site.

Voice Express has built BABW their own voice server that is hosted at their Web Store headquarters where they also do order fulfillment. Programming the customer’s voice into the plush is just one of the customization processes BABW provides.

Build-A-Bear is leading the toy and gift industry in on-demand customized production and interactive retailing and understands the value of products that deliver a personalized voice.

Build-A-Sound™ is Build-A-Bear’s best selling sound even though at $8.00/unit it sells at a $2.00 premium over most of the pre-recorded sounds. Customers are willing to pay a premium for personalization. During gift-giving seasons such as Valentine’s Day, conversion rates for Plush purchased with a Build-A-Sound™ reach 35%.

At the launch of Build-A-Sound on the Web, Build-A-Bear Workshop Chief Executive Bear Maxine Clark remarked: “Adding this feature is another way for us to make the guest experience on our website as personal and creative as the Workshop experience. We safely tuck the small recorder into the bear…a perfect way to say I love you or to record a unique message such as ‘Will you marry me?,’ ‘You got the job!,’ or ‘Congrats on your promotion,’ just to mention a few. We are very excited to launch this just before Valentine’s Day when so many people want to share a special message of love through a stuffed animal. The record-your-own feature has been available in our stores for almost two years and has been very popular from the beginning. We are very happy to be able to provide this option at the same affordable price for the first time to our website guests.”

In 2004 BABW began marketing stored value cards which are perfect for busy grownups who want to give their child or niece the opportunity to build their own teddy bear but with few shopping days left before a holiday don’t have the time to Build-A-Bear themselves. Since personalized voice drives a large percentage of BABW gift sales, Build-A-Bear ingeniously developed a line of Message Hugger™ Pillows which hold a stored value gift card and a Build-A-Sound™ so that the gift card comes with a personal voice message from the gifter. If that wasn’t enough, BABW included elastic ties on the talking pillows so that the child can build their bear and then attach the talking pillow to the bear and have it deliver the message every time it’s hugged.

Build-A-Bear has also experimented with other recordable gift-card holders and plush accessories, perfect during gift-giving season.  Voice Express developed a line of foam-shaped recorders with elastic bands which permit a gift-giver to record a “pawsenalized” song dedication before playing premium licensed music such as: “Celebration”, “Wild Thing”, “Teddy Bear” and “We wish you a Merry Christmas”.

Every month we receive heartwarming testimonials from Build-A-Bear customers who have used the Build-A-Sound™ for wedding proposals, to save a dearly departed’s voice or used a Build-A-Sound™ to provide comfort and support to a friend or family member in need.