HomeLocal NewsBest Buy vice president on the impact of mobile technologies on retail

Best Buy vice president on the impact of mobile technologies on retail

Amid the doom and gloom surrounding the retail business, Best Buy Mobile’s Scott Moore shares his thoughts on how retailers can think differently about mobile technologies in order to add value and get through tough times

Report By Guardian.co.uk

The electronics retail space has never been more competitive, with Comet the latest high street casualty in the UK, following on from the well-publicised closures of Woolworths, JJB Sports, Clinton Cards, Blacks Leisure, Game and Peacocks.

A lack of differentiation, strength, relevance, vision and dynamism undoubtedly led to their demise, coupled with their inability to grasp the changing nature of customer behaviour thanks to digital.

So how do retailers stay relevant? Are retailers facing a future away from bricks and mortar or is technology going to benefit them in the long run? And how is mobile presenting new opportunities, as well as challenges, for retailers?

Scott Moore, vice president of Best Buy Mobile, one of America’s most prominent electronics retailers, which is seeking a turnaround in fortunes talks about the company’s experience of using digital technologies to their advantage. Best Buy recently saw online traffic rise 10% on Cyber Monday, one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday period on the US.

Moore is bullish about his industry’s future and Best Buy’s ability to handle change. Here he shares some of his thoughts and ideas for what has been making Best Buy such a success.

“At Best Buy, we feel like we have to show up where customers want, when they want,” he says. “However, it’s very difficult to do, because you have to think about all of our 30 million rewards members and 125 million visitors. Fifteen years ago it was simple enough to say ‘can we create enough value within a single big box location?’ Now we think about the customer experience across multiple channels. We have seen, like everyone, a growth in online sales but there are also incredible growth rates on the mobile sales front.”

Mobile isn’t simply a transactional tool either, it’s part of the sales process. “Long ago, consumers started showing up with printouts from the internet for information they had learned and they wanted some impartial advice on what to buy.

What has happened with the mobile revolution is that process is happening in an instant with a smartphone. The good news [for us] is, it’s still really complicated. For all these products, as simple as our partners make them, it’s still hard to figure out if you’re finding the right one for you. This all comes together for us by providing training and providing our staff with devices to give them the same level of information as our customers.”

Like everything else about mobile devices, there’s a tremendous growth opportunity because it provides real value to customers. It doesn’t take too much vision into the future to look at other growth rates relating to mobile and see how they’re applied in a retail context. When thinking about the management lessons from this tech revolution and the emerging importance of IT, Moore says the key is bringing the human and technical sides together.

“There are traditional retail challenges which don’t go away, for example it’s hard to get your organisation focused on the most important thing and deliver something consistently over time, especially with multi-product, multi-platform retailers with a global footprint. But within my team two years ago, I took the decision to break off some of my top marketing leaders to spend more time thinking about value proposition development outside of the core traditional marketing space. I asked them to to spend time with the IT team, to understand who they are, what they think and who they know, and how a marketing mindset can combine and create new value for our customers.”

Could it be seen as a risky move to take talented leaders and put them into a slightly fuzzier space when a business is facing pressure?

“If you are the challenger brand in the mobile phone selling space, you have to work harder and show extra value. Aside from selling protection services and insurance products, what else are we doing? How are we deepening our relationship with our customers?

This team thought deeply about that. They understood that the nature of the products had changed dramatically. The smartphone that you have in your pocket is more valuable to you six months after you’ve bought it than when you first bought it. When people lose their smartphone, they go crazy.

Our team asked how we could facilitate the relationship between Best Buy shoppers and the smartphone they bought from us. How do we make this the 24 happiest phone-owning months of their lives? That an understanding of what’s going on in the ecosystem, it requires opt-in from consumers, up to date usage data on phones, and it requires the marketer to think about valuable new experiences for the customer.

Two years later, it’s probably one of the better decisions we made as a team because that led to the creation of a programme we call ‘happy 24’. That’s what happens when the marketer sits with the IT person. As a case in point, Stephen Gillette, who heads up marketing for Best Buy, used to be chief technical officer at Starbucks.”

It’s certainly a tough environment for retailers, but embracing consumer technologies could offer clearer value propositions and differentiate themselves from the crowd. Consumers are going to want to shop for and service their products where they are and when they want to, and retailers need to show up there. The message is that for most retailers, the businesses should look forward to a mobile-plus future if they get the technology working for them, as opposed to mobile only future, and Moore reiterates why this makes sense for a business like Best Buy.

“We’re getting sharper about what our unique proposition is and what we’re here to do – to be a destination for all these unique retail technologies. For all the efforts of our partners, it’s still hard to get all this stuff to work together, so that’s why we train our staff to make sure that they can really provide impartial advice. We believe passionately that there’s a role for physical and multi-channel retail to help customers find their solutions because invariably some customers know it all and just want it there and then, some need a lot of help and some people just need a nudge in the right direction.”

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