Is Best Buy making the best decisions?

Brands undergo a transformation from time to time. Some change their appearance, some launch new product lines, some make changes to their portfolio. But when a brand does a couple of these things all at the same time, it’s like watching a badly choreographed dance move.

About a month ago, Best Buy abruptly closed over 100 stores of its sister brand, Future Shop, only to reopen about 60 of them as Best Buy stores. They didn’t do this gradually or with consideration for the existing equity Future Shop had built, neither were they considerate for employees they laid off (employees have to reapply if they choose to work at Best Buy). As for customers, there were positive aspects of Future Shop that are now un-catered to. For instance, the instore auto section, that has now transitioned to Best Buy online. The service included providing guidance and also installation if required. Now that it’s online, the experience is diluted and if the wrong auto part is ordered, returns and re-ordering is a hassle. Future Shop even had better payment options on their credit card.

Best Buy in its feeble attempt to stay afloat, is making hasty choices that will do the business more harm than good. Currently focussing on Amazon as competition, they have launched “Market Place” – a section on their website where third party merchants can sell their products. Neither is this model unique to Best Buy nor will it salvage their plummeting sales figures. It’s an “I’ll have what they’re having” move. Amazon and E-bay have excelled at it with great customer service, free shipping policies, easy returns – not attributes Best Buy can hope to achieve right at the get go. Yes retail has experienced a huge online shift, but the brand experience needs to remain consistent with the traditional store. This market-place model does not do that.

Alot has been said about Best Buy shoppers not making it to check out and using the store to browse the latest technology and then purchasing elsewhere. Well, I don’t think Best Buy can or should attempt to price-match and would do better if they turned their attention to other aspects.

Not to sound like the grim reaper but Best Buy is knocking on death’s door with its current strategy(or lack of it). What the brand could be doing instead:
1. Enhance the in-store experience: Since the brick and mortar stores are still in operation, it would be a good idea to turn the focus on how to improve customer service, how to make Geek Squad more knowledgeable and helpful, find ways to reduce being under-stocked, enhance the store itself with brighter lighting and easier manoeuvrability.
2. Retain Future Shop’s merits: They might have closed the store but they should incorporate the aspects of FS that worked well for the brand(as mentioned above).
3. Improve the web experience: If they want to compete with Amazon, they shpuld start by making online purchases hassle-free in every way possible. Easy returns, free shipping where possible and providing indepth information on new technology would incentivize consumers to want to choose Best Buy.

Surviving as a Big Box electronic retailer at a time where choices are plenty and the shopper is highly tech aware is not an easy feat, even more reason for prompt transformations before the brand becomes a case study in bad business strategies.

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I’d like some veggies with my vitamins

Thoughts on Shoppers Drug Mart now carrying fresh foods.

With the purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart by Loblaws, a recent test to sell fresh foods at thestore_ShoppersDrugMart drugstore chain has been underway. This won’t be the first time a store attempted to straddle categories and stock a wider array of goods than their core. After all, Canadian Tire sells kitchenware and car audio under the same roof. Alot has been written about whether this will be a success or fall on its face. Primary benefits being – SDM is open late hours, some even 24/7 and the chain is known for good quality. So I guess if you feel like grilling some sirloin at 2am, Shoppers is your best bet.

Trying to get people to buy fresh food at a chain associated primarily with medications might be a bit of a stretch although critics say it could be done. Packaged foods, sure. Frozen foods, could (maybe) work. Fresh foods? I think that crosses the line. Starting off with the obvious question of “how are you different from the competition?”. Walmart for instance – is open late hours and specializes in being a one stop shop, with unbeatable prices.
While trial and error might be the way to go when it comes to retail, there are a couple of consumer insights as to why the brand would be wise to leave fresh with Freshco or in this case, Loblaws.

  1. Medication is the motive, fresh foods might be happenstance
    Yes, Shoppers stocks alot more than prescriptions. However, the consumer mindset when walkfresh veging into a Shoppers Drug Mart is to walk out with either medicine, toiletries or a bag of chocolate to feed a late night craving. While I’m there, sure I might pick up a bag of cherries if its being sold, but that’s not what I’m going in there looking for. Also, Shoppers is an in and out kind of place – not a Loblaws, where one stops to browse. Shoppers is more like a QSR trying to enter the sit-down restaurant category. They don’t have the physical space (not all locations) nor the brand positioning to be viewed as a meat and veggie retailer.
  1. buying meatsConvenience’ and ‘fresh’ don’t jive
    Shoppers is known for convenience. It’s the place you can count on at midnight when you’re out of green tea and can’t fall asleep. Or if you’re in a hurry and can’t deal with long line-ups that Walmart is sure to have. However, when it comes to fresh foods, there’s a defined pause in your aisle browsing. You have to stop to examine the bananas and check the meat’s texture to lb. ratio. There’s a disassociation there that might be difficult to overcome.
  2. Credibility countsorganic
    Today’s label-reading consumer is conscious of what they consume. Non GMO, free range, certified organic and grass-fed are terms actively sought. Sure this might not be the market Shoppers is interested in, but if they did carry these products, how much credibility does a drug chain have in this department?
  3. Brand stretching and risk of failure
    The fresh foods category is always going through product recall, especially meats and vegetables. If Shoppers aims “to be the leader in helping Canadians discover a healthier outlook on life” as per their mission statement – I believe it’s important to steer clear of categories that could damage this reputation.

The rules of retail are always changing and what might seem illogical, sometimes gets adopted as the new normal. As Martin Lindstrom says in his book ‘Buyology’: “But like it or not, all of us consistently engage in behavior for which we have no logical or clear-cut explanation.”

I might be over thinking this one, but I’d love to hear your views and perceptions. Will tonight’s steak and potato dinner be picked up at your local drug store?

The PoP engagement …& more?

The rules of “Consumer Engagement” have been getting ink in every other article, publication, blog and ‘how-to’ advertising guide out there in recent times. Well-deserved no doubt, brands have already moved past telling their story to reaching out and asking you to write it with them. In today’s ‘always-on-my-phone’ age though, engagement has largely taken the form of apps, online engagement, and ofcourse the twitterverse and facebooksphere.
If you think back to the traditional retail kiosk though, are we still only having one-way conversations with the consumer? Is there a level of interaction that can be built in, in a subtle way without the nightmarish corner-and-distract car salesman technique? It raises questions like How does one read the shopper’s disposition? Would they want to be approached? Do they want to hear what’s on sale? Or…do they just want to be left alone to browse,without the sales talk?

Clinique attempts a psychic-equivalent of mind reading with purposeful wrist bands, that encourage shoppers to wear one to ‘speak their mind’. Wear green ‘for a consultation’, Pink ‘to browse in peace’ and White for ‘Express Service’.

This attempts to solve the problem of intimidating potential customers with overselling/shadowing them around. Ofcourse, it needs to translate to an attentive sales force, that is constantly wrist-watching before launching into sell mode.

In my opinion, while this is a new approach and seemingly fresh, it could be further developed and could lend itself to a campaign thought. For instance, how about translating this level of consumer understanding into something Clinique can own? Could this reinstate Clinique’s branding as the professional skin care expert?

There’s a strong level of consumer interaction that these wrist bands summon, and a hint of what could be a big(ger) brand idea.

‘Engagement’ as a one-off is novelty, but could be very powerful if embraced and sucked into the brand’s essence and cross-channelized across all media. It would provide a level of consistency that makes brand interaction a smoother process than what it currently is.
Now if only there was an app for that.