Best Buy focuses on customers not competitors

Yesterday US retailer Best Buy opened its doors to the press at West Thurrock retail park in Essex. Surrounded by a Curry’s Megastore (advertising 10% off), PC World, Argos and Comet, it sits in the middle of fierce competition.

Best Buy
Best Buy

But European chief executive Scott Wheway, who strolled around the store with an iPad under his arm, insists that he is not worried about the competition. Instead he says he wants to try and set the agenda and that Best Buy will measure itself against customer feedback rather than competitors.

Yet setting the agenda doesn’t mean the brand wants to come across as arrogant – Wheway uses the word ’humble’ more than once. He says that customer feedback will help the brand gain its own momentum.

The mantra seems to be that service, the latest products, value for money and green cars and motorcycles are what will get customers in store and keep them happy. But it won’t be using the strapline ’Buyer be happy’ as it does in the US – it will instead use ’This is how it works’ on its advertising by CHI & Partners and direct communication by Wunderman.

The line and strategy underwent quantitative research with 10,000 people in the UK. It features in store on screens that demonstrate a measure-up service for home cinema, as well as on the local tactical campaign.

For Wheway, the main marketing challenge will be getting people to realise what possibilities technology opens up, he says. He calls this the ’I don’t really know about that, and I am not sure if I want to if it means spending more money’ group, which he wants to reach, get excited and therefore encourage through his doors.

He cites an app for the iPad which allows it to be used as DJ decks, as an example, but won’t be drawn on when Best Buy UK will be selling the hardware – which is smaller than you might think, at about ¾ the size of A4. Suffice to say, the brand partnered with Apple for its launch in the States earlier this month.

Marketing director Kevin Styles says that the real point of difference will be the brand’s sales force, known as the Blue Shirts. They are buoyed up by the positive culture in the company rather than being paid commission, and approach customers with general questions before talking about lifestyle and then the relevant products.

All the people I spoke to seemed to be experts. The man on the camera stand had 10 years’ sales experience at Jessops and the person running the 3D TV room had worked in Currys and Comet. He says it will be a priority to speak to the wives and girlfriends of men browsing the TVs ’because 70% of women get ignored’. Clearly the nine weeks of intensive training has paid off and sales staff can’t wait to shift products once the store opens on Friday. Time will tell if the people on the floor are this fresh in forthcoming months.

Mobile phone handsets are among the products at the front of the shop and they are working models, rather than the dummies you get ’in Carphone Warehouse,’ as one Blue Shirt pointed out. Ironic given that CPW owns half of Best Buy Europe.

Wheway says that the future will be deciding what to do with the brands in Europe, where CPW exists as 1600 The Phone House stores or ’small boxes’. It will be about putting the mobile phone arm together with the ’big box retailing’ and e-commerce and capitalising on it, he says. Watch this space for big boxes with yellow signs on them popping up all over the place.


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