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Best Buy - partnering with the predator in search of being more than just a consumer tech retailer

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan May 28, 2018
Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly puts customer support at the heart of his firm's differentiators.

More than just a consumer electronics firm - that’s the claim pitched by Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly as he stakes a claim for a particular role for the U.S. retailer:

Our unique in-store and online experience also makes us the logical partner for tech companies innovating in areas like virtual reality, which is still an emerging technology, that customers need to experience in person. Best Buy is the only retailer where customers can demo the new Oculus Go virtual reality headset from Facebook, which is now available in more than 700 stores and on We are leveraging our unique assets to help leading technology companies commercialize their new products.

That includes some joint-ventures with retail giants as well, including the firm that most retailers are supposed to fear - Amazon. Joly says there’s room for the online behemoth to tap into Best Buy’s product expertise to mutual benefit:

In a multi-year exclusive partnership, we're working together to bring the latest generation of Fire TV enabled SmartTVs to market. The exclusivity of our partnership extends to all SmartTVs with the Fire TV experience built in. The TV's will be available exclusive in Best Buy stores on and on through Best Buy as a third-party seller. We will be rolling out more than 10 models this year beginning this June.

Away from such alliances, Joly says that Best Buy’s omni-channel focus is drilling down on building deeper relationships with its customers so as to provide better support and services in the rapidly-changing consumer tech market:

We want to provide ongoing value to our customers beyond their periodic technology product purchases to inspire them with what technology can do for them and support them to make sure all their tech is working the way they want.

That means enabling better customer experiences both online and offline

In the digital channel we are focused on streamlining the online buying process for our customers, in our stores we continue to work with our associates to develop their proficiency and their ability to deeply understand and meet customer needs. In the home channel, our in-home advisor program is ramping up well, since launching nationwide last September, we have seen strong results similar to those we saw during our pilots.

The in-home program now has a total of 380 advisors on call, with more to come. It’s a good investment to build long-term relationships, says Joly:

While it is very important that the customer have a great experience in their first consultation, a goal of the program is that this initial interaction is the beginning of a deeper and more relationship-based experience with Best Buy, over the long-term. And we believe the program will continue to improve and mature as our advisers are in their roles longer, master what are sophisticated skills and as we further enhance the tools and systems that help them do their jobs.


Online or off, it’s also about responding to customer feedback and adapting accordingly, advises Joly:

Our customers told us that it can be hard to compare products in store if you don’t want to speak with our associates, so we’ve recently launched a new app feature that makes it easy for customers to use their mobile phone to compare products when shopping in a store. We have the scan to compare feature, customers can use their app to scan the QR code of up to three products and then see the comparison of the specs and features of the products on their phone to help them research and determine which product best meets their needs.

All of this is necessary to keep up to speed with the pace of change, he adds, citing the Smart appliance revolution as a case in point:

I continue to be impressed by the magnitude and pace and breadth of technology innovation. What is unique in this era is how technology now gets embedded into more and more things light bulbs, doorbells, large appliances, small appliances. And then how all of these products are now connected, the people call this the Internet of Things and so forth with broader and broader applications.

Among those applications is the potential impact IoT tech can have on wellness and healthcare, something that Joly sees as an opportunity for Best Buy:

One thing as we've talked about is how technology can help people stay in their home for longer. There is a lot of excitement around helping people do that and reduce, improve people health and wellness and reduce healthcare cost for the country… we are exploring the health space with a focus on older Americans. We already have sold a variety of health-related products and technology products designed for seniors, like specially design phones and medical alert systems. We are also testing a service, called Assured Living, to help the ageing population stay healthy at home, with assistance from technology product and services. And we will continue to learn as we find our approach in this space.

My take

A nicely executed example of omni-channel retail in action, with the emphasis on putting customer-centric support at the heart of it as a differentiator. The consumer tech sector is an obvious candidate for colonisation by Amazon, so choosing to work with the predator rather than waiting to be eaten is a pragmatic move on Best Buy’s part.

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