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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Instagram, not so insta anymore

instagram-video-appInstagram: the app that turned the average Joe into a pro photographer, boasts of over a 100 mn users as of February this year and was named app of the year by Apple in 2011(Source:Instagram blog). Its users have been snapping up their breakfast bagel, their awesome lives and even their bathroom tiles. Now, video comes to Instagram. 15 whole seconds of it. Suddenly the app’s Kaizen philosophy appears to have taken a detour.

In a scramble to have it all, the world of social media has progressively become somewhat akin to the Cola wars, with Facebook and Twitter at the helm. It started with Facebook buying Instagram and Twitter buying Vine. Then Facebook rolled out hash tags to get on par with its 140 character nemesis, and now, to take on Vine, Instagram launches video.

While this is all turning into one big content creation party, before you race out to shoot an #igram video to combat a burning FOMO starting to stir within you, consider this: it might not be watched.

The video app market is over fragmented with offerings, some merely differentiated by length constraints – there’s Viddy which allows upto 30 secs of footage, Keek, which allows 36 secs and Socialcam which is uncapped. Then there’s the recent Vine, which challenges your creativity with a 6 sec limitation,which in my opinion, can be fun if done right(my thoughts on Vine here).  Instagram brings its cache of awesome filters over to video, but has failed to ask itself a crucial question –is this just an attempt to compete with Vine and push a technology platform or will it enrich the current Instagram experience? I fear it takes away from it.

The platform might be amazing for its video shooting capabilities, I don’t doubt it. I can also see how this is a juicy bone for brands chasing the famed “content marketing” wagon. The caveat I offer to both would be, don’t bet on your friends/consumers being as amazed as you are with your #birthdayshenanigans and #soundsoftheocean clips, shot with the X-pro II filter.

micro-publishing media

In the online world of social publishing, there has been a gradual swing towards documenting micro-moments. Sharing is encouraged, but in mini morsels that can weave in and out of busy lives without being an interruption. Under these circumstances, 15 second footage of your life seems like a short film. More so if it’s shot in Lo-Fi. Instagram took the photo-sharing baton from Flickr and ran with it, when it comes to video however, the party may have moved elsewhere.

A sense of media fatigue has begun to set in; the popularity of Snapchat is right on the dime with the trend of see it and/or forget about it. Its ephemeral nature makes it interesting. Infact, brands looking to get on the next wave of social would do well looking into this app, especially for limited-time promo code offers and teasers.

What works for Vine is that it lined up with behavioural shifts (instant/fleeting/micro), Instagram-video is an offering that isn’t all that insta nor very differentiated and clutters an otherwise idle, scrolling user experience.

One can only hope there’s an opt out of the video stream.

Digital gets real

The retail outlet has always been treated as an important touch point in communicating with the consumer. Then with the advent of e-commerce, the spotlight shifted to the online UI.

Real world experiences aren’t going away though, as the Retail Renaissance trend pointed out a while back; they’re re-emerging in a big way. Digital technologies are revamping traditional retail, and bringing it to life. Online is now driving the consumer offline. In fact the lines are fast blurring and brands that still silo the two are going to have to play catch up.

Digital for digital’s sake might not cut it anymore, digital strategists are fast becoming experience curators who have the discernment to weave uninterrupted brand experiences across platforms.

While digital offers convenience and technology, brick and mortar stores offer sensorial immersion. The sweet spot lies in the coming together of these worlds. The recently transformed Burberry flagship store in London is a great example. The store is transformed into 44,000 ft of digital wow. From mirrors that are motion sensitive and turn into runways, to live streaming of the London Fashion Show, this store is a living breathing brand world.

Then there’s Audi City, mentioned in my previous post as well, which is a first of its kind digital car showroom. With ceiling to floor ‘power walls’ that allow you to dream up exactly how you’d like your car to look, while letting you maintain a seamless experience from website to store and back to website.

While driving the consumer online was once the chosen path, bringing the online experience to stores is where digital truly comes a full circle.