The primary hitch for Best Buy is that there's almost NOTHING that distinguishes its thousands of square feet of sales space from online retailers like Amazon that have no overhead and sell us the exact same stuff for half the price.
As Roben Farzad and Kenton Powell explain in this Bloomberg Business Week bit, Best Buy has become nothing more than a digital showroom for most customers:
"Window shoppers go to one of Best Buy’s well-appointed stores to avail themselves of quality face time with gadgets and salespeople (think inventory and salary costs) before consummating the transaction elsewhere—online.
Fueling that growing practice are price-comparison apps such as Amazon’s Price Check, which lets those obnoxiously savvy smartphone users scan a particular item’s barcode at a store and immediately know who has the best deal on the Web. Consumers can then just buy it right on their phone.
It’s like a scene from the vintage cartoon comedy The Jetsons, but traditional retailers with hundreds of costly stores, such as Best Buy, Sears Holdings, and even Wal-Mart, aren’t laughing."
To save itself, argues Alex Goldfayn in this Mashable Business bit, Best Buy needs to improve the customer experience in its stores. After all, stores -- actual physical buildings that we stop by on the way home from work in order to get our hands on devices -- is what makes Best Buy unique, right?
That's something that Amazon isn't even TRYING to provide, but it is something that customers STILL want -- explaining the full parking lots in front of YOUR local Best Buy every weekend.
Improving the customer experience in stores, however, means reinvesting in employees -- and that's something that Best Buy hasn't been willing to do. The Blue Shirt Nation employee training program that Best Buy built its reputation on has been neglected for years.
The results, according to Goldfayn, have been devastating:
"One of Best Buy’s major advantages over Amazon is that it employs people in blue shirts who are expected to help customers. These folks are young (because they cost less this way), but insufficiently trained.
Of course, Apple Stores employ young people too, but Apple’s people are empowered, no, mandated, to help people. Best Buy’s store staffers read the back of the box with you."
Improving the customer experience in stores also means stripping away the hundreds of items that Best Buy currently sells to customers to focus its efforts on a smaller handful of high quality gadgets that people actually want.
As Goldfayn explains, "Best Buy should focus on the best products, not on as many products as can be crammed onto shelves." Doing so would make the shopping experience more efficient for customers -- and more profitable for Best Buy.
I couldn't help but thinking about traditional brick-and-mortar schools when I was reading these two bits about Best Buy, y'all.