The Best of Best Buy & Walmart: Barrage Beats Triage

Introducing electric vehicles, expanding into vinyl records, exploding private label, unveiling used game exchange kiosks, launching an online open idea exchange, forming an exclusive alliance with TiVo, incubating an experiential in-store environmental upgrade . . . all major initiatives that Best Buy has announced since the beginning of the year. Oh and look for this month’s launch of “Twelpforce,” which will have Best Buy associates scanning Twitter to find folks seeking electronics illumination. (click on blog title to comment)


Is Best Buy biting off too much at one time? Tossing it out and seeing what sticks? How can they take all of this on? Well, how can they not? If you ask us, Best Buy serves as a case study in post re-set relevance at a time when some other retailers and brands continue to pick, choose, dabble, and dunk pinkie toes like it was 2000.


Let’s get real - shoppers are in too many places for retailers and brands to exist only in a few . . . and revolutionary category and service extensions are no longer dissonant; they are welcomed by shoppers who've been put to sleep by sea-of-sameness assortments and mind-numbing price wars. Walmart too has taken fearless steps by putting its “ten words” mantras into action, executing Project Impact in its stores and turning into a teeming, more-than-shopping information hub; radical departures all. If “Walmartization” once meant low prices and quick commoditization, it now means that going multi-category, and multi-channel, is a mandate for any retailer on the grow.


Today’s consumers also expect retailers to move beyond one hit wonder offerings and self-congratulatory new media tests . . . and Best Buy doesn’t have much risk by going all-in; shoppers might actually be more forgiving when a $16k motorcycle disappears from stores than they would if the latest Shine Down CD was nowhere to be found. Idea Exchange and upcoming Twelpforce are great ways for Best Buy to manage the conversation around its brand . . . and to potentially own much of the conversation around the categories and products that it sells.  All of this without insisting on running everything from the main Best Buy website . . . Sometimes disembodied tentacles have more strength.


Perhaps the biggest differentiator for BBY, and the one most important to emulate, is leveraging the power of reaching out vs. simply being "available." There's a big difference between the two; so much so that passive interactions will soon become passe.  (They already are?) Twelpforce will have Best Buy Blueshirt volunteers scanning Twitter for befuddled electronics users and proactively offering up solutions to their conundrums. We are way more psyched about the prospect of lobbing a Tweet query on how to connect the office’s Sirius radio to the receiver, or one begging for logic on Logitech, than we are wading through manufacturers’ user manuals or watching a wacky YouTube video. Solutions in 140 characters or less? Sign us up!


You know that queasy feeling that comes when Walmart announces it's going to really go after a particular category? Still no Pepto strong enough for that; however, Best Buy’s omnipresent approaches and recent appetite for the new may have CE regionals and non-CE retailers alike shaking in their boots. After all, Best Buy isn’t content to just steal market share; it's heck-bent on owning conversations and cornering the market on problem-solving . . . That’s as close to a recipe for loyalty as it gets these days.


Know of more firing-on-all-fronts examples?  Want to keep the conversation going?  Click on the blog title to comment.

Lisa Carver3 Comments