Mark Carson, President and Co-founder of Fat Brain Toys, wants to move in the direction of more tangible product interaction that would magnify customer engagement levels.

Fat Brain Toys is a Nebraska-based manufacturer and retailer of educational toys and games. The company was founded by Carson and his wife, Karen, from the basement of their home in 2002.

Fat Brain Toys recently introduced a new way for customers to interact with its website. Virtual Toy Tours gives visitors the ability to engage with select products in an interactive, 3D browsing experience.

While virtual reality ecommerce may still be years away, the 3D toy models allow customers to interact with products in surprising ways. The Virtual Toy Tour is available on a select number of best-selling toys this holiday season, with additional 3D models to be added in 2018.

Built on WebGL technology, the Virtual Toy Tour is optimized to run effortlessly on any device, including computers, tablets, and even mobile devices.

“So much of it revolves around filling in the inherent gaps between shopping online and in store,” Carson explained to Loyalty360. “Specifically, as it relates to toys, e-commerce is still wholly lacking when it comes to tangible product interaction. You can see a picture of a stuffed animal, but can you really appreciate its cuddle-ability? While we haven’t come up with a solution for that yet, we felt that the Virtual Toy Tour functionality took us a step in that direction. By allowing the user to control their viewpoint and trigger playful interactions with the virtual toys, it provided yet another way to appreciate the toy in a way that a static image or even a video can’t do.”

This unique functionality launched last week.

“All of the products that currently have this functionality are original products that we’ve developed here in our ‘toy labs,’ Carson said. “Through that development process, we’ve been looking at the 3D models of these products for over a year. But it was only recently that we figured out an effective way to share that with our customers.”

Innovation is a key focus at Fat Brain Toys.

“That’s one of the main things we hang our hats on,” Carson explained. “Toys are sold just about anywhere … from Target to Walmart to Amazon.com. But none of these companies really knows anything about toys. We ONLY do toys and that is our enduring competitive advantage. But it’s also our challenge to do toys better than anyone else. This is just another example of the lengths we’ll go to to provide our customers with a really feature rich, toy-specific shopping experience.”

Carson’s definition of customer loyalty has evolved in the sense that it can be tied to so many different things such as ease of use, free shipping, reliability, product quality, competitive pricing, customer support, easy returns, etc.

“The realization for me was that customers can be loyal to a company on price and price alone,” Carson added. “Or they might be loyal to another company because they can get free second-day delivery. While both those points are important to us too, our focus remains on the broader objective of earning loyalty through real customer interactions. It’s a harder path for sure, but one that I think is, ultimately, more deserving of loyalty.”

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