The target market for Best Buy is appliance and electronics consumersâ€”people in the 18-35 year range, though the retailer does target older adults as well as â€œmillennialsâ€ (ISU College of Business). Its main target is described as â€œhighly engaged consumers who love technologyâ€ (WARC). In recent years, Best Buy has had to redefine itself and redefine its corporate strategy. In fact, itâ€™s had to redefine everythingâ€”from its core products to its target market to its store concept. With the (foreseeable) rise of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retailers have had to adapt or dieâ€”and many have died. Blockbuster, Toys â€˜Râ€™ Us, RadioShack are just a few of many that have fallen by the wayside. Best Buy appeared heading for a similar fate in 2012 when its share price hit a 21st century low for the company at $11.29. The company managed to bounce back in a big way (its stock currently trades at $61.98â€”and much of that bounce has to do with its ability to stay afloat in the digital era. Best Buy has rejuvenated its store concept, adopted the store-within-a-store strategy (Lee), and upped its interest in the tech-loving consumers who have helped propel retailers like Apple into the stratosphere.
Best Buyâ€™s store image has changed considerably since the company appeared locally here in the early 1990s. Throughout the 1990s, Best Buy offered some of the best deals on CDs, radios, movies, electronic equipment and computers. Then the Internet hit and suddenly e-commerce changed everything. Foot traffic into Best Buy dwindled and the store often seemed like a ghost town compared to the buzzing, busy, heady days of the 90s. Best Buyâ€™s store image was revamped to be less product-centric and more consumer-centric. The store branded itself and its workers as experts in all things electronic. It developed its own Geek Squad to compete with Appleâ€™s Genius Bar. Yet as far-reaching as Best Buyâ€™s ambitions were, the merchandise it was selling could not quite match (and neither could its brick-and-mortar retail business model). The store had to push harder and drive window shopping foot traffic that still trickled in into sales. It adopted the Amazon model of ordering online and picking up at the store (Amazon warehouses and Amazon locker offered e-commerce shoppers the luxury of ordering online and picking up an Amazon location). Best Buy cut down on inventory costs and supply chain costs by minimizing the product it stored on-site. Accepting that purchasing traffic was going to be redirected to the Web in the Digital Age, Best Buy developed a new store image that was finally web-based. Its website became slick, sleek, simple, and easy to use. One-stop click and shop access, similar to what Amazon offers, helped boost the retailerâ€™s image and show that it had what it took to compete for space in the consumerâ€™s mind in the 21st century. If the local Best Buy did not have what you wanted in stock, the Best Buy online would have it and could have it delivered to your store quickly enough for the company not to lose a sale.
In terms of sustainable competitive advantage (SCA), Best Buy has relied on pricing and education to compete with and beat the e-commerce giant Amazon, which is pushing all other retailers to the ropes. Best Buyâ€™s sustainable competitive advantage was always price, in fact. Giving consumers the lowest prices helped it win market share against other electronics retailers. Pricing gave Best Buy the edge of Circuit City and Media Play. But now it has had to reshape its SCA and adapt it for a new era. In adapting, it asked itself what products were people least likely to buy onlineâ€”and the answer was large onesâ€”appliances like televisions, dishwashers, ovens and refrigerators. TVs and appliances were the products that Best Buy could focus on to ensure the brick-and-mortar store still had a reason for existing (Plastow). That worked for a while but as time passed (2012 was a hard year for the company with the economy trying to recover from the 2008 global economic crisis and prices still down thanks to the rise of discount retailers), Best Buy had to do more. It had develop another SCA: and this time it turned to education (Shapiro). That SCA is rooted in the following factors:
Â· Training store staff to become product experts
Â· Beefing up the capabilities of the Geek Squad army of specialists
Â· Ramping up smart home offerings, along with services to help customers with installations (Shapiro).
There is also the SCA that has developed regarding Web presence. Best Buy has upped its online presence in order to keep shoppers from heading to Amazon for its buying purposes. Indeed, Best Buyâ€™s website is clean and organized, advertises sales in meaningful ways, is intuitive to use for the shopper (unlike the brick-and-mortar store which can actually be quite confusing with its store-within-store concept), and can give Amazon some online competition. In terms of the local brick-and-mortar store, however, the SCA that Best Buy has implemented is one based on being smart and providing consumers with everything they need to know to make a good purchase.
Indeed, when a consumer enters Best Buy today, the consumer is met by a sales agent who puts the customer into a queue. The sales agent assumes you are there to buyâ€”and even if you are intending just to see a model up close and in person before you go home to purchase it online, the sales agent does not want you to get away that easily. They want you stick around, learn about the different devices and appliances you are browsing and quite possibly even get you to purchase it in store while you are there. They use their new store concept coupled with an aggressive sales and education approach to drive sales and keep costs down.
Customer service is the new underlying SCA that Best Buy is relying upon to stay in the retail business. If products and low prices helped secure it a spot among the top retailers in the nation prior to the dotcom bust, todayâ€™s e-commerce heavy environment is lacking not in low prices but rather in human contact. Best Buy has picked up on this lack and is providing consumers with a real-world place where they can get a real-world experience with a real-world expert on all things electronics.
5 Retail Mix Considerations
Best Buyâ€™s spatial considerations are good. The high ceilings and the sectioned off departments all help shoppers to feel like they have a lot of room to maneuver as they browse the store. Signs help to advertise the direction of certain items, and smaller stalls in specific areas offer specialty items and products that are monitored by specialty associates who know all there is to know about that type of product. The problem with entering Best Buy today is not the spatial considerations, but rather the wait-time involved in getting to see an associate who is interested in helping you make a decision about which product to purchase. The queue is typically a few minutes long and an impatient shopper used to getting information right now from the Web may not feel like spending that many minutes simply browsing the aisles of a small section of the store waiting for an associate to free up.
The merchandise is fair. Best Buy carries the top name brands and productsâ€”from smart phones to iPhones to Acer to Samsung and so on: consumers will not feel let down by the merchandise on the shelves at Best Buy. They will wonder, however, if this is the extent of what is available. Again, the world of e-commerce has spoiled consumers who visit the real-world of brick-and-mortar shops. Amazon will give online shoppers a thousand different choices when it comes to buying a single type of product. If that same shopper expects a thousand different choices when he walks into a Best Buy, he is going to be disappointed: they will not be there. Nonetheless, what merchandise is available at Best Buy is appropriate to the store.
Best Buy was always known for having the best prices in town and that still has not changed. It is competitively priced and normally a shopper will not find a better deal online. Best Buy knows that it is competing not just against other brick-and-mortar retailers but also against e-commerce retailers, which means it has to still offer the lowest prices possible. That is not always easy or possible, since discount retailers are much more common online today. However, Best Buy does a good job of keeping prices low and attractiveâ€”and if one can purchase on the spot it is even better because there is no need to wait for shipping.
Best Buyâ€™s service is effective, though it is not perfect. Shoppers will tend to mill about the store in the small section of interest waiting for a sales associate to finish with another customer so that attention can be turned to him or her. Oftentimes the customerâ€™s name will be taken down on a list, which definitely makes the experience feel like visiting a doctorâ€™s officeâ€”which is not a good association to make, as doctorâ€™s offices are no fun and buying the latest in great technology should be a fun experience. Therefore, while the sales associates are knowledgeable and can help to answer questions, the way in which service is provided could stand to use some tweaks. More representatives need to be availableâ€”or else self-help kiosks should be installed to help provide customers with the basic FAQs.
IMCâ€”Integrated Marketing Communication
Best Buy does use IMC to ensure that consumers get the product that is right for them. As WVU notes, IMC is the â€œplanning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer or prospect for a product, service, or organization are relevant to that person and consistent over time.â€ Best Buyâ€™s sales agent and store associates are good at asking questions of the consumer, but they sometimes fail to connect a consumer with a brand. If a consumer does not have a brand in mind, the sales associate should be willing to take a leap and connect the consumer with a brand that the agent intimates will be a good fit for that consumer. Sometimes consumers want someone else to make the choices for them. A qualified sales associate will pick up on that desire and make a suitable selection for the consumer. This is where Best Buyâ€™s sales associates could improve. Another point that Shapiro makes is that Best Buy should â€œtrain store associates to not only become product experts, but also teach them the value of building relationships with individual customers. If the associate is able to create a personal dialog with a customer (person) the customer will be less likely to purchase the product for less money if the price differential is reasonable.â€ Additionally, the sales agents should be more consumer-friendly to help advance the companyâ€™s SCA of relationship-building. Relationships matter even more in todayâ€™s Digital Age: they are hard to come by, and if a sales agent can connect with a consumer in the local Best Buy, that is a consumer that Best Buy could have for life. That is why Shapiro makes the additional recommendation that the company should â€œempower associates to make deals, offer promotions and even surprise customers in good ways. If the customer spends a certain dollar amount for a home entertainment system, for example, have the associate send the customer a plant or flowers as a special way to show customer appreciation.â€ In these ways, Best Buy could substantially improve its IMC.
Strategies to Reach Its Market
The hard part about evaluating this particular aspect of Best Buy is the fact that even the company is unsure of just who its target market is at this point. Is the retailer going after the â€œhighly engaged consumers who love technologyâ€ as hypothesized by WARC? If so, why have a Geek Squad? Highly engaged consumers who love technology are already tech-geeks and would not require the services of a Geek Squad nor would they need the expert advice and know-how of sales agents trained according to the latest tech manuals. So then who is Best Buyâ€™s target? Consumers who are doing window shopping to see the product up front and perhaps get a little information from the experts before making a purchase online from the lowest e-commerce retailer to offer a similar product? This may be more of the reality.
Best Buyâ€™s strategies are indeed aimed at converting the latter shopper into a buyer, too. What WARC has found is that Best Buy shoppers may not be knowledgeable about the best in latest technologyâ€”but they want to be serviced by someone who is because in the technology wars, whoever has the latest and best technology is the king of the roost. For neighbors in a community, it means staying on top of the latest in tech developmentsâ€”or at least having the best speaker installation at oneâ€™s home so that you can impress the neighbors. According to WARC, a lot of the shoppers in Best Buy just want an associate to guide them towards the best tech products on the market today so that the consumer can buy those and not have to worry about how it works, what is so great about it, and why it will not be surpassed any time soon. Best Buyâ€™s target market may be the uninformed consumer who knows that he at least wants the best product on the market at the best price on the market. And its current marketing strategies to reach that target are helping. Its service counters, Geek Squad, store-within-store concept, and sales associates are all trained in the fine art of helping the customer connect with the device or appliance that he or she needs.
In conclusion, Best Buy is a retailer here in town that has transformed itself over time to be more customer-focused, which is a very good step for a retailer of its size and nature. The e-commerce business has decimated the brick-and-mortar retail space but Best Buy has managed to stay afloat by re-inventing itself, its store concept, its approach to product offerings and to consumers, and by increasing its online presence. Best Buyâ€™s best strategy going forward is its SAC regarding service, education, andâ€”as alwaysâ€”prices. These three aspects will help to ensure the Best Buy stays competitive for a long while.
ISU College of Business. â€œMillennials as a Target Market for Best Buy.â€ ISU, 2017.
Lee, Thomas. â€œBest Buy Bets Big on Store-within-store Concepts.â€ StarTribune, 14 July
Plastow, Jason. â€œBest Buy Competitive Advantage.â€ Storify, 2012.
Shapiro, Richard. â€œBest Buyâ€™s Competitive Strategy to Beat Amazon: Educate
Consumers.â€ B2C, 2016. https://www.business2community.com/trends-news/best-buys-competitive-strategy-beat-amazon-educate-consumers-01600643
WARC. â€œSegmentation drives Best Buyâ€™s strategy.â€ WARC, 2016.
WVU. â€œWhat is IMC?â€ WVU, 2017. https://imc.wvu.edu/about/what-is-imc