This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time now. Actually, I had the idea for this article two weeks ago, prior to hearing just today that Best Buy’s CEO has stepped down. I’ve seen articles that have trashed the retailer, and I’ve seen very few articles that defend the retailer, let alone have anything constructive to add. Although I won’t defend, I’ll go the constructive route.
It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback in times like these, however, I’ve given much thought to how Best Buy can actually achieve relevance again, and actually compete with online retailers like Amazon and WalMart.com.
My thought is that even with Amazon.com being the “Big Box” killer of brick and mortar stores, we still need a Best Buy. Heck, we still needed a Circuit City, even with Best Buy still around. Why? Because competition spells better prices for consumers. If there is a dwindling competition, there’s no other retailers around to keep prices in check.
Play to Your Strengths
When you walk into a Best Buy store, what do you see? You see this huge space filled with stuff! Lots of stuff. Stuff you may never need or want. In many cases, if you walk into a Best Buy with the intent to actually buy something, you pretty much know what you want. Therefore, you’ll bypass all the other techno-goodies, until you get to that thing you want.
The other reason you may walk into a Best Buy is that you will want to see something you found on Amazon up close and personal. How many of you have used Best Buy as your “Amazon Showroom”? C’mon, admit it… you’re among friends here. Raise your hand, yep, I thought so.
See, Best Buy’s image is that of a place full of stuff. Yeah, they have their commercials how the Blue Shirts are there to help you, but they aren’t really helpful in most cases. Right now Best Buy’s biggest strength is two-fold.
- They have a helluva lotta stores.
- Their stores have a helluva lotta space.
Best Buy should really, and I mean really grasp this. They are wasting customers’ time, they are wasting their own money, and most of all, they are wasting opportunity by not leveraging these two key assets. Keep reading, I’ll break it down even further.
Lots of Stores Means Lots of Profits, Right?
Not if you’re doing it the way Best Buy does. When you come in, you’re pretty much greeted by the guy (or gal) that is usually there to make sure you don’t steal stuff. He or she may say hello, but they don’t care if you’re there or not. They’re busy waiting for the person that tries to walk out with something they just bought, and it trips the “loss prevention” machine that tells you to step back or you will be vaporized instantly if you take one step further.
Think about this instead. Best Buy has a staggering 4,100 retail outlets “in various formats” according to their website. That’s FOUR THOUSAND and ONE HUNDRED chances to win one new customer per day, per hour, per minute.
Ok, so now that they have all these chances, who do they station at the entrance/exit with the loss prevention customer vaporizer? Some person who only says, “Hi, how you doin’”. MISSING THE POINT.
Instead of being the type of help yourself retail underwhelming experience everyone expects you to be, why not WOW someone instead? Try placing someone who is friendly, smiling, outgoing, and most of all, helpful.
Sure, they can be ever-watchful of the loss prevention machine going off, but by putting someone there who knows the store backwards and forwards, every inch, every nook, the customer experience can go something like this:
“Thanks for coming in to Best Buy. Were you looking for something very specific, to where I could point you more efficiently in that direction, or were you just gonna spend some time with us and look around today?”
So the person at the door would go from being an aloof buffoon to a well-mannered, upscale “concierge”. In other words, someone who’s aiming to give the $99 DVD player customer a million dollar experience.
Sure, many if not most people will say, “I’m just looking!” and shuffle off for fear of trying to be sold something they didn’t want. However, if Best Buy would try to shift people’s expectations of always being on guard from salespeople who don’t know the technology they’re selling, yet are always trying to sell, Best Buy would see a much more appreciative and perhaps talkative customer.
You can have plenty of chances to sell stuff when you’re customer isn’t feeling the high pressure of sales. Instead, be friendly and helpful and help them save time by getting them to where they WANT to be. They may stop on their own along the way and browse and maybe pick something up they didn’t think they wanted or needed, but the thing is, they did it on their own, and weren’t pressured.
Instead, that helpful person up front helped them save time, and buying something that wasn’t on the list was the customer’s idea, not the salesperson’s.
Now, do that just once a day, times the number of stores, and you may very well have 1,496,500 RAVING FANS in one year’s time who love your stores. That’s not even including the people they tell about their awesome experience, who then come in to see it for themselves.
On to the next idea…
Stop Selling and Start Suggesting
As a consultant, the one thing I promised I would never do when working with a client is “sell” them. I don’t sell them any products, I don’t sell them any services. Period. I’ve been in sales, and I hated it. Yet, to be a successful consultant, many people think that I have to sell. Nope. I don’t and I never will.
That is because the word selling, or sales, has such a negative connotation attached to it, I refuse to acknowledge it’s existence in my world. Instead, I do what sales people are supposed to do in the first place, and that is suggest a solution to the problem.
However, something really gets lost in that translation, doesn’t it? I mean think about it. Every time you walk into a store, how many times do you cringe because a “salesperson” is starting to make his way toward you to try to convince you to buy something you may not want or even need. Heck, you may actually want it or truly need it, but because the slick sales person who makes a commission off your deal is trying to eat that month, you find yourself resisting his charm and his fast talking and don’t buy anything; just because he’s trying to work you over to make sure you buy that thing you know you need.
Ok, how about this instead. Stop selling, Best Buy! Just stop it, like right now, right now. Stop selling “stuff”. Instead, turn your army of salespeople into an army of helpful guides who would rather point someone in the right direction and let them go on their merry way, than to be some high-pressure peddler of wares that customers will do anything to try to get away from.
So, imagine if each sales person was a “certified consultant” for that department he or she was working in? What do you think that would do to your experience? Again, the million dollar experience!
Instead of starting with, “Have you seen this amazing television?!” Buzz! Wrong! Epic fail! Start with, “Were you looking for a specific type of television to meet a certain need?”
As a customer, how could you be put off by that? As a matter of fact, when most people shop for a television, they may very well have a certain reason they’re buying it. Perhaps for the Super Bowl, or for a new home theater, or a different type of specific room. One size certainly doesn’t fit all, and the more questions the “Certified Consultant” can ask, the better they can help match the customer with the best product that will meet the need the customer has.
This can be done with every type of product in the store. Cameras, car stereos, video game consoles, you name it!
Ok, there’s more! I’m on a roll here…
Leverage All That Space For More Than Just Selling
I’ve already gone on about how Best Buy just wants to sell “stuff”. And we know that’s annoying. However, Best Buy, try as they may, still isn’t able to cram product into every available nook and cranny. That’s a good thing. Because my next idea for Best Buy is to start learning from informercials!
Yep, infomercials. Think about this. What do informercials do? They sell, yes. But how do they sell? They educate! They show you the product, the pain that it solves, and they show you HOW it solves it!
They do a demo! Even Vince from Shamwow does the demo! Do the demo, man!
So think about this… have you ever asked a salesperson questions like “how many ports does it have in the back?” Only to get a blank stare and the young less-than-knowledgable salesperson answering, “Uh, I dunno! Let’s turn this around and check it out.”
Again with the epic fail! That does absolutely nothing to instill confidence in that person to be able to help me make my purchase, but it also doesn’t instill much confidence with Best Buy as a whole, either. That’s because there is no credibility. There’s no product knowledge, there’s nothing! And without that, guess what else I’m thinking? Am I really getting the best price for this? If they don’t know how it works, or how many ports it has in the back of it, do they really know how much it’s supposed to cost?
So, what about this?
Educate, educate, educate! Hold floor demos and make them cool. Use some of that unused space for building customers without selling.
Show off the newest arrival of the big screen LED TV from Samsung or Sony. Give out facts about why that company is a good quality TV company. ”They’ve been making televisions for over 50 years, and were the first to patent LED radiance filtering, which means you get the clearest picture possible in a brightly lit room.”
Don’t make it salesy, make it informative. Make it about the customer. What would they want in a TV? What would the person giving the demo want in a TV?? Probably the same things the customer would.
Show it in a 360 degree view. Let shoppers see it, feel it, touch it, get them involved. Ask for volunteers! Show them how easy it is to use the menus, and how to adjust the volume, and most of all, how easy it is to switch between devices! It it’s too complicated, people won’t buy it, because they won’t want to look stupid in front of their friends and family. Show them how to do it while they’re in the store, and even before they bought it!
That will position the presenter with massive amounts of credibility, the store itself credibility, and it may close a sale or two as customers that are excited about their products will be able to buy it now and have it home and hooked up WAY before they can get home, order it from Amazon, wait for it to arrive, then be able to enjoy it. Elapsed time for the online purchase, 3 to 5 days, plus hooking it up, plus figuring out how to use it, would mean about 7 days.
Elapsed time from a Best Buy educational demo, 1 freakin’ day! They bought it in the store, and it’s at their home same day. With the demo, they know how to hook it up AND they know how to use it. It’s ready to go before dinner and the family can watch their fist movie with pizza and popcorn THAT night!
Demos can be done for computers, for DVD players, video game consoles, the super-complicated home theater receivers, even the home theater in a box packages. Literally everything. Put some music and a guy or a gal up on a stage with those pop-singer microphone/headset combos, and you’re on your way to newfound credibility, and profits!
Take It A Step Further
If you really want to get extreme, Best Buy, why not leverage that Geek Squad of yours? Why not have them give Saturday classes on everything from how to hook up your monitor to what to look for in a new computer… in other words, what does RAM and CPU mean? How to know if it’s time to upgrade your computer. Even more so, how to use email, Microsoft Office, etc.
It doesn’t have to be super in-depth, but if you make it 30 minutes to an hour, have it provide some value. It doesn’t have to take away from the services that Geek Squad provides, and you can have customers sign up for the class. Email them reminders about their class on Saturday as a courtesy, and see what happens! Heck, offer a discount to anyone who brings in their computer and let them drop it off before they head to the class!
The Real Bottom Line
Ok, so these are but a few ideas on how I think Best Buy can achieve relevance again. But here’s the thing. For Best Buy to try to compete with Amazon is futile. Instead, Best Buy should be trying for a different demographic altogether.
There will always be the ones who want to use Best Buy as an Amazon showroom, and that won’t change. But the customers that Best Buy can win over, are the ones who don’t know tech very well. The customers that Best Buy educates, are the ones that will be loyal. That’s because there is a credibility, a loyalty, a trust that is forged through the free sharing of knowledge and information. That helps the customer to make better buying choices.
Combine that with the instant gratification of buying that item right there in the store and being able to take it home is something Amazon just can’t do. Don’t get me wrong, I love Amazon, but Best Buy owes it to itself to determine that they want the customer that wants to be helped. They want to ones that are just now learning how to email the grandkids, the ones who have finally decided to upgrade their computer and have no idea how to pick the best one out there without looking like a dufus.
By educating, you empower. When you empower your customers, they will be loyal, because you have given them skills for survival in this new age of ever-changing technology. By doing that, Amazon just can’t compete, as they don’t educate, they only try to compete on price. That’s a one-sided strategy that doesn’t always pay off.
If Best Buy were to become more of a consulting-type store, and an educational store, winning over customers one at a time and in small groups by way of demos and informative classes, how can they not be relevant? Think Apple Store, only bigger and with more products to show off.
Well, if nothing comes of this, at least you can learn from someone else’s mistakes and think about what customers really want, and give it to them. The money will take care of itself after that.
Image Credit: Flickr/Bosta