Content engagement is an essential component of American Girl brand loyalty for consumers.
And it works. The brand says shoppers who visit the interactive virtual museum of American Girl have a 25% higher add-to-cart rate on its e-commerce site than shoppers who don’t interact with the museum.
Since launching American Girl in 1986 as a cataloger, the brand has created a world around its doll products. For example, each doll is the lead character in its own book series. This historical narrative helps keep kids engaged with the brand and wanting to buy not just the doll but all of her matching accessories, she says. Debbie HaagVice President of Marketing at American Girl.
“We are not just a toy. We are not just a puppet.”
In keeping with the times, American Girl launched a virtual museum as another way to immerse consumers in the brand in a content-rich way.
“We built on rich stories and experiences, and so it was a really easy decision to create a virtual museum,” says Haag.
The Virtual Museum is an interactive website similar to how a consumer can use Street View on Google Maps. Consumers see the museum’s interface and can click on icons to travel around the museum.
Each doll has its own room in the museum, decorated in a historical time period that relates to the doll’s story. Consumers can click on different parts of the room to learn more about the character or her family, take a quiz about the doll or play a game.
“Through this immersive experience, children can feel part of each character’s world,” says Haag.
Since American Girl’s focus is on stories and content, the brand made sure to create a museum bookstore stocked with the brand’s books. There, consumers can find different books on the virtual shelves, click on them and read the first chapter preview.
Engaging content is part of the American Girl brand
Complementing the 11 American Girl stores, which are also meant to be interactive, is the interactive museum. For example, in the shops there is a salon and a doctor’s office for dolls, and a restaurant where children and their dolls can have tea.
“If you’re not in those 11 store locations, you’re not going to get that immersive experience. We wanted to make it accessible for our fans,” says Haag.
American Girl launched the virtual museum in July 2021 after building it over three months with tech company Obsess. In June 2022, it relaunched the museum as a “play destination” and incorporated a gaming element into it. In each room there is a pet. If a girl finds all of the pets, she earns points that she can redeem for a digital download.
When American Girl releases a new doll character, she then updates the default gift shop with items for that doll. At the end of December, American Girl just launched the 2023 New Girl of the Year, Kavi Sharma. Thus, the museum now includes a room for her and the gift shop focuses on products that complement her personality.
This modernization of the museum coexists with an “omnichannel approach to marketing” in which American Girl will promote the doll on its online homepage, with in-store banners, on its social media platform, in addition to the museum.
Measuring the success of the Virtual Museum of the American Girl
Virtual Museum is a separate website URL – Museum.americangirl.com/play —who is focused on shopping AmericanGirl.com E-commerce site. Consumers can go to the Museum by pressing the “Play” button at the top of the American Girl homepage.
“One site is about gameplay, exploration, and fandom, and AG.com is more about shopping,” he says. Stacy CarpenterSenior Director of User Experience and User Interface at American Girl.
Inside the museum, a girl can create a wish list and then email that list to her parents or “gift-giver,” Haag says. Since the target audience for American Girl is girls ages 5 to 10, the brand cannot legally sell it to them. Consumers can add items to their cart, but the products do not have price tags on them. Girls must also enter their date of birth first before adding any items to cart, and only shoppers over 13 can add to cart.
Because of these age selling restrictions, the brand measures success in different ways for the museum location. Rather than focusing on add to cart and conversion—two key performance indicators for the major e-commerce site AmericanGirl.com—the Virtual Museum focuses on:
- time spent in the rooms
- The number of products that were clicked
- The number of interactive points each girl earns from the games provided
- The number of items each girl adds to her wish list
Haag says the museum is pulling the metrics to prove its worth. The girls spend an average of six to 10 minutes per session at the Museum. Carpenter says that’s 1,000% longer than the average time all shoppers spend on AmericanGirl.com.
In the museum’s 18 months of existence, Carpenter says, the girls have added “thousands” of items to their wish lists. In addition, these emails contain an extension High conversion rateOn par with AmericanGirl.com’s cart defaulted email rate, says Haag without disclosing the numbers.
It makes sense for wish list emails to have a high conversion, Haag says, since the message is a personalized list of products from a loved one. She says this strong performance is good. She says that generating a conversion from a repeat buyer is much less expensive than acquiring a new customer.
Additionally, shoppers who visit the American Girl’s interactive virtual museum have a 25% higher add-to-cart rate on AmericanGirl.com than shoppers who don’t interact with the museum, the brand says.
American Girl is a premium brand, costing more than $100 a doll. Because of this high demand, on average, it takes five to seven points of contact with an American Girl brand before making a purchase, says Haag. That’s why having rich content is worth investing in, because it’s another interactive element with the brand, says Haag.
“We know for a fact that it’s an important part of the journey,” says Haag.
She chose American Girl Obsess for a virtual museum
The game brand has chosen the Obsess virtual store platform to build the virtual experience. American Girl admired Obsess founder W CEO Neha Singhwho previously worked at fashion magazine Vogue and had an eye for premium fashion and brands, says Haag.
“She just had an amazing eye for detail and creating beautiful experiences,” says Carpenter.
Haag says the vendor was relatively new when they first started working together. Haag says he felt American Girl got a good deal for what she gave, without sharing a dollar number.
“We’re a premium company, and we’ve trusted it with our brand,” says Haag.
Obsess says its pricing depends on the size and complexity of each virtual store.
“The core value of virtual shopping experiences is allowing brands to create deeper connections with their customers through increased engagement,” says Singh. “Virtual stores have a special effect in increasing brand value and loyalty among young consumers.”
Obsess has built virtual experiences for many retail brands including Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren, Coach, Crocs, and more.
Toy manufacturer Mattel, No. 203 in Digital commerce 360 top 1000American Girl.