Best Buy speeds start-ups to selling floor

Discussion
Photo: Best Buy
Oct 04, 2016

Best Buy has launched a new program that supports innovators and entrepreneurs largely by showcasing and selling their gadgets to consumers.

The program, called Ignite, includes dedicated space for products and services from startups; a new section in the online store for product information and purchase; and a partnership with PCH, a product innovation company.

Best Buy is offering three such experiences at its revamped Silicon Valley store in Mountain View, California:

  • A selection of crowd-funded gadgets from startups, including the Tangram smart rope, Flic smart button, RoBo 3D printer, Zuli Smartplug and Noke Bluetooth padlock — all also available on BestBuy.com;
  • Wearable technology showcasing the latest from Under Armour;
  • Muzik smart and connected headphones and Bragi wireless smart earphones.

For customers outside of the Bay Area, Best Buy is showcasing other startup products online and in hundreds of stores nationwide. Examples include the Anova precision cooker, Fizzics draft beer system, Keen Home smart vent, Petcube pet camera and Luma Home Wi-Fi system. The company will soon add an Ignite page to BestBuy.com to enable consumers to browse, learn about and shop for a range of items from startups.

Best Buy’s partnership with PCH will allow select startups to take advantage of PCH’s services, including assistance with product development, manufacturing, packaging and inventory management. Entrepreneurs and startups interested in participating in Best Buy’s Ignite program are being encouraged to sign up.

The program was described in some reports as similar to Amazon’s Launchpad, through which startups can submit their products for consideration to be sold on the retailer’s website. Launched in July 2015, Amazon Launchpad has worked with over 100 venture capital firms, startup accelerators and crowd-funding platforms to help more than 1,000 startups launch over 750 products in the U.S., U.K., China, Germany and France.

Walmart and Target have both launched accelerator competitions in part to support the launch of tech products.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see programs such as Best Buy’s Ignite and Amazon’s Launchpad as a sustainable trend for the retail industry or more of a temporary fad? Do Best Buy and Amazon gain a competitive advantage from such programs?

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Braintrust
"I love the idea of showcasing emerging products — it delivers a sense of discovery and exclusivity."
"This is a trend for sure and Best Buy is smart to get in on it. The consumer has never had more choices of where to shop..."
"What would be cool is if they created space in the store to not only display these gadgets, etc., but also to play with them. "

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21 Comments on "Best Buy speeds start-ups to selling floor"


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Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Interesting idea. I like it. It introduces consumers to new products. Allows the companies to “test” the response and interest. It gives a little credibility to Best Buy for being innovative and a supporter of the start-up community. If the sales numbers warrant the space on the sales floor, it can be a good move for Best Buy.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

This could be a really powerful concept.

Going forward, in-store retail is going to be about the experience. When retailers can bring new and interesting products into the store, they win. That will be especially true if those products are completely novel to the customer. Under Mr. Joly, Best Buy continues to re-invent itself and stay interesting … kudos.

Max Goldberg
Guest

Programs like Ignite and Launchpad are good for start-ups and for consumers. There is a constant stream of new products trying to enter the market. By highlighting a curated selection, Amazon and Best Buy help entrepreneurs while reinforcing their own brand images. Many consumers want to try new products. These programs provide that chance. The programs create excitement because consumers never know what they will find when shopping these dedicated sections of the store and websites. With so many electronics retailers being “me-too” it is a refreshing competitive advantage to sell undiscovered products.

Chuck Palmer
BrainTrust

Best Buy’s Ignite program sits squarely in the retail tradition. Retail is about the discovery of the fresh and new, even on the most mundane of shopping trips. I love the idea of showcasing emerging products — it delivers a sense of discovery and exclusivity. Target has done this with their designer collaborations and West Elm has given its store managers the latitude to customize and localize their assortments.

I hope every retailer will look at ways to delight their customers with whatever cool and innovative means to them. We need more creative thinking and solid execution both online and in-line at retail today.

Tom Dougherty
Guest

Even though Best Buy seems to be a fast follower here, it’s at least something new for a retailer struggling to remain relevant. The thing that intrigues me about these programs is that we have become conditioned for — and even thirst for — new innovations. We’re no longer as suspicious of them as we used to be. There are more people who like “new” than ever before.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

I wrote a LinkedIn article a while back titled “Selling the Impossible” about how hard it is to get people to at least look at a new possibility. (This is what my life is all about these days, so it was personal) So I truly hope you’re right about this becoming easier! Thanks Tom.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
Doug Garnett
President, Protonik
5 years 7 months ago

I agree with you both. But let me add one more layer.

Our experience is that you can’t simply hope that consumers discover the new possibility in store. Advertising is critical to new possibilities — in programs around innovation.

Ads must reach people before they are in the store. There are always a few who will stop, look, listen, and dig around to understand that which is new to them. But MOST are on a mission (and their 5 year old wants to go to the toy department) so they have scarce time and mental availability for the new possibility.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust
As per my colleagues, I too really like this idea. I’m not sure the brand “Ignite” quite does it but I’ll leave that to bigger brains than mine. I’d also like to see it go a step further. What if they expanded this idea and had an entrepreneur’s store-within-a-store? A Start-Up Store, if you will. Like authors promoting a new book in a book store, the store could arrange for inventors of products to come and tell their story. Start-up entrepreneurs would go there to figure out what sort of tech they’ll need, how to best set it up, which app really does what it claims and so on. Build an entrepreneurial community so they’d rather go to Best Buy than Starbucks. Or make it a Starbucks for goodness sakes! Encourage them to talk to each other. The only caveat is that this must be facilitated by someone who actually has entrepreneur DNA. Don’t throw just anyone wearing a blue t-shirt into this. Entrepreneurs, true innovators and inventors love to talk with others of like… Read more »
Lee Kent
Guest

Yes, Ian, love the concept. It takes me back to the ’70s when I used to swing by RadioShack on Saturdays to hang with other geeks and build our own computers.

Ori Marom
Guest

It is a nice idea. However, the failure of The Sharper Image should serve as a warning light with regard to the commercial viability of such a concept.

Lee Kent
Guest

What they get is possibly more trips to the store and that is definitely a good thing. What would be cool is if they created space in the store to not only display these gadgets, etc., but also to play with them. This could make Best Buy a destination for a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Today’s shoppers want experiences and this is a great way to create just that. Just like shoppers at Zara that go in more frequently, and subsequently buy more, simply to see what’s new because they are always turning their merchandise.

This gets my 2 cents.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest

I assumed that these meant the opportunity to put hands on, not just look at and think about from a distance, which would defeat the experiential aspect of doing it to start with.

Tom Redd
Guest

BrainTrust members: Keep in mind that this is in a segment of stores in a part of the country that is made up of kids who have too large an allowance and think Teslas are faster than 69 GTOs. This is a strange space — where money is free and no one cares what things cost. This is a great PR move by Best Buy. It’s not realistic in all markets. When this type of format was done by Target and others it was usually fast-fashion or beauty related. Calm down — this Best Buy test is pure Generation Z Silicon Valley/Millennials-targeted.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest

Plus a great opportunity for these “opinion leaders” to turn others across the country onto the products!

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
Managing Director, Retail and Consumer, PK
5 years 7 months ago

This is a trend for sure and Best Buy is smart to get in on it. The consumer has never had more choices of where to shop, so unique or exclusive products and unique experiences are among the few ways that retailers can still stand out. Best Buy, as part of its continuing turnaround story, has sharpened its focus on the key tech- and gadget-savvy customer and the Ignite initiative gives those customers another reason to return to the store.

Kim Garretson
Guest
5 years 7 months ago
As I’ve commented before, I used to be one of Best Buy’s liaisons to the startup world, especially the venture capital industry and its portfolio companies. I like that Best Buy has evolved to be able to showcase these items versus my experience of most new ideas getting shot down. The merchants, or as I called them “Vice Presidents of NO,” often said no because they would have to take a known vendor’s SKUs off the floor and lose MDF funding to wedge in these long shot products. But the company and markets have changed, and this is a smart move if for no other reason than it gives the declining physical store shopping segment a new reason to go to the stores, and the online shopper a new reason to check in there. With the competitors doing the same, Best Buy almost had to do this. And again, as I’ve written before, I suspect only 20 percent of these products/companies will stay afloat for two years, so I hope Best Buy is not setting… Read more »
Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

Excellent points Kim, but you must applaud Best Buy’s efforts to better connect with consumers by bringing start-up innovations into the physical store, while positioning to win relevant views in online and social media. To earn mindshare as a leader in electronics (which is defined by innovation), Best Buy has to walk the talk.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

The current market landscape almost forced BBY, (and others) to go down this path. Creating a product incubator and then showcasing their inventions is both commercially and competitively smart. BBY can test the acceptance and viability of a product. If it passes the internal gauntlet of “VPs of NO” (thanks Kim), then it could become a “private label” product.

If retailers don’t experiment with new product introductions and inventions their relevancy will continue to erode. Nest was introduced and now sold through Home Depot and Lowe’s, yet they sell direct online through their own website. That’s the competition.

Roger Saunders
Guest

Sending the message to consumers, Best Buy associates, and technology innovators that Best Buy is open to continuously evolve and passionately explore the “New, New” is one that inspires. The Geek Squads alone will be the biggest champions.

With space available in a box that is a bit too large at this time, leads to greater productivity on square footage R.O.I.

Add in the fact that Ignite serves as a potential traffic builder and increased frequency of visits, this points to a winning strategy to test. Bravo!

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest

Based on what I’ve been seeing and reading, this is what the generation is asking for: Give me the information on my electronic gadgets and give me the new, special experiences in the store. I think these stores will be like marketplaces to meet and try the latest products — and be in on the influencing of others.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
Doug Garnett
President, Protonik
5 years 7 months ago

Getting innovative products into stores is a far more effective way to increase traffic than most options. I’m quite interested to follow this. Hope Best Buy nails the approach — because there ARE many ways it could go wrong.

For all the discussion of “entertainment” in the store, the entertainment consumers want are a good product selection displayed well. And “good product” selection includes innovative new things as well as the reliable standards. One can’t succeed without the other.

That said, in our practice, for innovative products we find that advertising is critical to success. And not digital ads. Traditional advertising that creates interest in the product among people who didn’t know they wanted to look for it.

Let’s hope Best Buy supports this approach wisely.

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Braintrust
"I love the idea of showcasing emerging products — it delivers a sense of discovery and exclusivity."
"This is a trend for sure and Best Buy is smart to get in on it. The consumer has never had more choices of where to shop..."
"What would be cool is if they created space in the store to not only display these gadgets, etc., but also to play with them. "

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