Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Best Buy's Physical and Virtual Customer Immersion

Happy Wednesday!

If you're like many people, you feel a certain panic if you find yourself without your smartphone.  You might even feel naked or otherwise vulnerable if you're not able to reach for your phone every few minutes just to see if you've received another email or a text message confirming your dinner plans.  If you're a millennial, you may even be sleeping with your phone gently cradled in your hands and using the vibrations as a sleep aid.  It's your address book, your mp3 player, your Facebook channel and, oh yeah, your phone...  Let's face it, it's your life.

Don't deny it.  Your friends at Best Buy don't which is why I was really fascinated by this video that they recently presented at National Retail Federation's Retail Innovation and Marketing Conference.  It's over four minutes but worth the viewing!

Whew!  Lot of stuff in there to absorb and I imagine it will take me a bit of time to truly decipher all of the different possibilities.  Here's what I do know: Best Buy is gunning to be as indispensable as your phone is these days no matter how, when, where, why and whom you engage with them.  It has made a conscious shift from a company that sells TVs, DVDs and iPods (among other things) to a company that designs and provides solutions for customers almost like a Best Buy branded portal for products and services (bundled or not) or even affiliated businesses.  That, my friends, is HUGE.

As you know, customer centricity is not a new thing for Best Buy - this is the latest evolution in their personalized service and is a means to stay relevant and one step ahead of its competition.  Both of which current (e.g. Sears) and the dearly departed (R.I.P. Circuit City) competition haven't discovered.  A few years ago, Best Buy identified its main customer segments: Barry is an affluent techie, Jill is a soccer mom, Buzz loves gadgets and may grow up to be a Barry, Ray is a price sensitive family man and Mr. Storefront owns a small business.  Best Buy employees are trained to identify these segments and tailor the sales presentation based on the segment profile and some Best Buy stores provide product and are designed with the predominant segment in mind (based on zip code).  

Using its in store customer experience and segmentation expertise, Best Buy is slowly transforming into a service provider with its feet on the ground and its head in the clouds.  Given the ever changing consumer and evolving mobile landscape, Best Buy wants its customers to steer the relationship on their terms:  
  • They decide how they will receive product and information: either through the traditional retail model, as an online browser/shopper or in store shopping with the smartphone almost like a handheld information kiosk.  
  • They also get to decide how to get tech tips via Best Buy's Twelpforce on Twitter.  
  • In the future, customers will decide how to conduct the transactions as well.  If you heard Mark Williams, their President of Financial Services, you noted that mobile will be the ways items will be purchased as card plastic becomes obsolete.  
  • New iPhone apps are in development and Best Buy wants the end users to contribute to IdeaX to identify the features and benefits.
  • And, as I mentioned in this earlier post, Best Buy's user forums remove the entity from the equation and lets the advocates do the selling for them -- truly putting the social in social media marketing.
In other words, Best Buy is trying to manage the customer experience three dimensionally such that it becomes the de facto place to go when consumers need products, services or just some basic questions asked.  By staying curious and hungry, it stays one step ahead.

In the next post, we will talk about current and future implications (and maybe applications) of this radical shift  in doing business.  In the meantime, please do share with me your thoughts!


Parissa Behnia

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