Hot Wheels, Gucci Edition. Master of the Universe, Shogun Warrior. Barbie \u201cRosa Parks\u201d Edition.\n\nThese are just a handful of unique offerings in Mattel\u2019s latest product line \u2014 but you won\u2019t find them in retail stores. They are part of the Creations portfolio of collectibles launched online by the massive toy retailer in August 2020 to enrich customer engagement, deepen customer loyalty, and open up new intellectual property (IP) and revenue sources for the company.\n\nThe pandemic provided the spark for the new business endeavor, which Mattel EVP and CTO Sven Gerjets describes as an internal startup-like initiative comprised of the company\u2019s technology organization, brands division, and marketing group.\n\n\u201cIt started during COVID,\u201d Gerjets says. \u201cWe were in a world of working from home and we wanted to expand out digital offerings with everyone in this kind of new world of living, which we didn\u2019t know how long we were going to be in.\u201d\n\nIn essence, he says, Creations was Mattel\u2019s answer to a question companies continue to ponder even as the pandemic wanes: How do you grow, scale, and meet your customers where they are?\n\n\u201cWe knew we had to create a new digital channel that engaged our collectors and created new product offerings and elevated experiences,\u201d says Gerjets, who emphasized that Creations, which has earned Mattel a CIO 100 Award for IT innovation and leadership, wasn\u2019t his sole brainchild or an independent spinoff from the parent company.\n\n\u201cEverything we do is tightly coupled between technology and business,\u201d the CTO says of the company culture. \u201cThat\u2019s the way we focus on transformation, whether it\u2019s transforming something that is customer-facing or transforming internal capabilities.\u201d\n\nA cloud creation\n\nDirect-to-consumer product lines, like American Girl, have become a key pillar of Mattel\u2019s business, and serving consumers directly requires a significant technology investment by Mattel, which has been migrating its operations to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Google Analytics for more than five years.\n\nTo pull off Creations, Gerjets and his IT team had to \u201cpivot\u201d to Shopify\u2019s online retail platform, second in size to Amazon, and implement a consumer data platform (CDP) from BlueConic, Gerjets says. Doing so put Mattel in a better position to focus on a specific consumer segment: collectors of Mattel\u2019s classic physical products, such as Hot Wheels and Barbies, as well as its many IP-based offerings, the CTO says.\n\n\u201cCreations started as the core platform to do new collaborative types of experiences \u2014 something we didn\u2019t have [before the pandemic],\u201d Gerjets says, pointing to a wide range of online collaborations with popular artists and designers who put a unique spin on Mattel\u2019s mega-brand products, including a Hot Wheels, Gucci Edition; a $500 Batmobile; and a Master\u2019s of the Universe Gorka necklace made in concert with artist Christopher Wright.\n\nThe new platform provided Mattel collectors with a unique online experience at a time when retail outlets were struggling to recover from pandemic shutdowns. More importantly for Mattel, Creations\u2019 success would provide the impetus for re-platforming much of the toy company\u2019s online retail business.\n\n\u201cOnce we launched this new environment for collectors, we focused on consolidating our collector experiences into one platform,\u201d Gerjets says.\n\nFor example, Creations now includes Mattel\u2019s Red Line Club, an exclusive Hot Wheels collector community that has \u201cthousands of members paying for the experience,\u201d he says, noting the importance of finding and selecting the right CDP to engage customers in new ways and to strengthen the company\u2019s loyalty clubs.\n\nE-commerce pivot provides sales boost\n\nBehind the scenes, Mattel\u2019s data migration to GCP, which began when Gerjets first joined the company roughly five years ago, fuels the Creations platform. In addition to its cloud rollout, Mattel\u2019s IT team partnered with Shopify for its multi-tenant e-commerce engine, which helped Creations scale quickly during the pandemic.\n\n\u201cIt had to have scale and a multi-tenant platform because when we would do these limited edition drops, many thousands [of products] would sell out in minutes,\u201d says the CTO, adding that Shopify also enabled Mattel to build customized capabilities such as content management into its Creations platform.\n\nIt took about 18 months to move Mattel\u2019s top product lines to Shopify, which has since been extended to include forums for each of its brands. Gerjets and his team also tied in Klaviyo for sales campaign management and to bolster capabilities for loyalty-driven business lines such as American Girl. Mattel also adopted DevOps platform Netlify to integrate with its business partners, the CTO says.\n\nDeploying BlueConic\u2019s CDP on top of Mattel\u2019s GCP environment enables the toy maker to aggregate marketing data and analytics on a single data hub, Gerjets says. For instance, by coupling BlueConic with digital experience platform Optimizely on GCP, Mattel can now experiment in real-time with its loyalty clubs, learn from the outcomes, and evolve quickly to drive more business.\n\n\u201cThis Mattel Creations store happened to be the place where we were able to start from scratch, and leave the past in the past, but it created the platform for us to continue to scale the company,\u201d Gerjets says. \u201cIt really has become that core hub to transform our direct-to-consumer business for the entire company.\u201d\n\nGartner analyst Sandeep Unni sees Creations as an example of new value streams retailers are making to transform their business models.\n\n\u201cInvesting in the Creations collaborative platform has allowed the company to present limited-edition, collectible items catering to the high-value collector\/enthusiast shopper base, both to current loyalists and to attract new shoppers,\u201d Unni says. \u201cThis has the potential of opening up new intellectual property and revenue sources for the company. It also allows them to appeal to the latest cultural zeitgeist by collaborating with new designers, as well as other brands and pop culture influencers.\u201d\n\nMattel recently launched its direct-to-consumer business in Europe and will continue to innovate in omnichannel marketing and with other planned offerings such as NFTs \u2014 tokens that represent Mattel collectibles such as Hot Wheels cars digitally.\n\nBut whatever the innovation, Mattel\u2019s CTO will ensure the technology organization is engaged with the company\u2019s brands and marketing groups to deliver a unified experience across the enterprise.\n\n\u201cTechnology may be the vehicle, but we need everybody in the car to drive business value and evolve and propel the entire company forward,\u201d Gerjets says.