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With 68 locations across Canada, Mastermind Toys offers a selection of specialty toys, books, puzzles, and games, and is a brand that deeply believes that “play is kids’ work.”  It’s also a brand that takes the in-store experience very seriously.

“I truly believe we have the best retail team in the industry,” says Sarah Jordan, CEO of Mastermind Toys. “Our play experts are incredibly knowledgeable about our selection and take the time to get to know our customers to guide them to new discoveries.”

With such a heightened focus on the customer experience, Mastermind Toys’ associates were an engaged and passionate network of teams – but without a way to connect on a larger scale. Without that connection, it was hard for the organization to rally employees behind common objectives, like loyalty program enrollment or checkout offers. Enter Jordan, who joined Mastermind Toys as CEO in January of 2020 – the first change in leadership since the company was co-founded in 1984. Jordan had big plans: she wanted to reshape the organization, lead a “digital reinvention,” and boost brand awareness.

“To be successful, I knew we needed to engage our stores and seek their input into the decisions – inspire them to be part of the way forward,” she says. “I deeply believe that employee experience drives customer experience.”

Mastermind Toys, meet Nudge

In Nudge, Jordan saw an opportunity to streamline communication, reduce information gaps, and get more timely with updates – all of which was more crucial as the pandemic reality led to changing protocols and closures differing from region to region.

But there was something else Jordan was looking for: a way to make herself more accessible to all team members, at all levels. “When I first joined the team, I started on a coast-to-coast tour to visit all our stores and meet with as many of our store associates as I could. But the tour was put on hold at the onset of the pandemic,” she explains. That meant finding an alternative way to create two-way communication between each associate and head office. 

Mastermind Toys introduced Nudge to its store associates in October 2020. Within two months, associates had shared almost 9,000 best practices, had sent over 780 employee recognition pins, and had shared 1,500 messages to each other. And that timing was key: while Mastermind Toys was bringing their employees together, they were also undergoing a huge digital transformation to become a leader in the market with their web and curbside pick-up offering during constant rounds of lockdowns and shopping restrictions.

“We were a retailer who did not have a contactless curbside option, and our web experience was severely lagging our competitors. In the middle of a pandemic, we launched a brand-new digital platform. We did it in five months, from scratch, including an entire ecosystem around it, including a customer service platform, review platform; you name it. Everything was overhauled,” Jordan explained at a recent DX3 roundtable.

Bridging the gap between digital and physical

A common challenge for retailers is figuring out how to navigate the relationship between their brick-and-mortar stores and their online experience. For Mastermind Toys, a big component of their digital reinvention was leveraging Nudge to transform associates into digital ambassadors who could help customers navigate the company’s digital channels, creating a “seamless shopping experience between our physical and digital stores,” explains Jordan.

Nudge played a critical role in bridging the gap between Mastermind Toys’ in-store and ecommerce experiences. Using Nudge, they saw a 22% increase in knowledge of the brand’s Digital Ambassador program – and a 24% increase in associate confidence in supporting customers browsing and shopping Mastermind Toys’ digital channels.

“Foster innovation by empowering our store associates”

Feedback means many things to many different organizations. To Mastermind Toys, feedback meant opening the channel of communication between its frontline associates and head office, to allow for fast pivots and recalibration, and drive innovation in their customer offerings. 

“We recognized the opportunity to foster innovation by empowering our store associates to share feedback by putting themselves in our customers’ shoes – from our littlest customers to our kids-at-heart. We saw the opportunity to unleash the power of our play experts coast-to-coast: to identify the next trend in recess play, to share more ways we could bring wonder to our website, or to roll out our industry-leading curbside offering in the best possible way,” says Jordan.

“I’m constantly impressed by the insights we receive from our store associates that give us a direct line into the challenges, celebrations and experiences of our customers. It helps us to quickly innovate how we set the trends in retail.”

But there’s another reason why feedback is so crucial to Jordan and her team: with the pandemic meaning uncertain times, an open line of communication is all the more important to ensure that concerns and fears are heard.

“It has been so important to me to give employees a direct channel to ask questions, share concerns, and offer feedback,” says Jordan. “In fact, hearing feedback from all of our stakeholders at all levels has been where I have learned some of the most valuable insights and where inspiration has been sparked.”

Closing the loop on great ideas

Tapping your frontline workforce for best practices and great ideas is a game-changer for organizations wanting to stay relevant and adaptive to the changing world. But a key component of that process is circling back to your workforce to show them first-hand how their ideas have led to change – and better business outcomes. Sharing those wins isn’t just about recognition; it’s about making associates feel heard and appreciated – which, in turn, leads to better engagement.

Mastermind Toys saw the importance of that crucial final step. “Nudge has closed the loop for us to communicate back to the stores how their input has contributed to our innovation and success as an organization,” says Jordan.

Building an employee community

In replacing their ad-hoc communication and best practice-sharing with a centralized communication platform, Mastermind Toys was also able to foster an employee community across all their locations. “Our stores are working together to problem solve, help each other with their sales goals, and inspire each other with new ideas,” says Jordan. Now, 80% of Mastermind Toys store associates believe that Nudge helps them do their job better.

“So many of our employees love the opportunity to post and read about what other team members are saying. It’s a tool that has really helped us foster an employee community in our stores coast to coast,” says Jordan. “Now the app feels like an extension of our team.”

Check out our full conversation with Sarah Jordan here! 👇