Best Buy’s virtual store pilot earns high customer satisfaction scores

Discussion
Photo: Best Buy
Dec 05, 2022

Best Buy has implemented and expanded its use of digital clienteling to serve more than a quarter million customers since announcing its virtual store pilot in 2021. Customer satisfaction has increased 20 percent as a result of the company taking its famous in-store service online.

“We know that shopping for technology can sometimes get complicated and this new virtual store experience gives customers a way to easily connect with another human to get advice and recommendations while they shop,” Damien Harmon, Best Buy’s executive vice president of omnichannel, told the Star Tribune.

Given that Best Buy’s online sales this fiscal year are on track to generate five times the digital sales pre-pandemic, it’s the perfect time to digitalize, scale and operationalize critical shopping services such as clienteling that spur sales and loyalty.

The pilot is located in a warehouse near headquarters. It has been transformed into a 40,000 square foot QVC-like studio space filled with products from ten categories — from treadmills to cameras — and staffed with 120 employees who are ready (and able) to answer questions, demonstrate products or provide advice. Customers initiate connections with virtual store experts through the website or app and can interact via text, chat, phone calls, live-streaming or screen sharing.

Best Buy has some 200 additional remote team members from across the enterprise available to provide expertise for the virtual store, as well as a small, select group of vendors who give product demonstrations and advice. Additional virtual showcases have been staged in physical stores to promote special categories: home theater and appliance center. The virtual store multi-tasks as a remote training facility for Best Buy employees, as well.

The virtual store represents just one of the initiatives underway designed to change the shopping experience at Best Buy. The retailer recently opened a new digital-first, 5,000-square-foot small box store concept that features a curated selection of “best-on-category products” in a select set of categories.

This initiative is a great use of resources — space, people, partners, processes, data and technology — that seamlessly connects shoppers with the assistance they need pre-, during and post-sale, regardless of location or touchpoint type. I think it will keep Best Buy’s online sales soaring.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the biggest benefits of Best Buy’s virtual store? What opportunities do you see for the chain to use clienteling in its virtual store and elsewhere to drive greater sales and profits?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Assuming proper execution: costs go down, expert advice scales, customer satisfaction goes up. Nothing wrong with that!"
"Maybe a virtual store works so well because there’s no one else for the staff expert to talk to but the customer!"
"Digital clienteling has been a trend in China among luxury retailers, and it was a smart move by Best Buy to be an early mover with the service."

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22 Comments on "Best Buy’s virtual store pilot earns high customer satisfaction scores"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

For those not familiar with products, buying electronics can require a lot of hand-holding that traditional online shopping doesn’t provide. Best Buy’s virtual store bridges the gap between the service of a shop and the convenience of buying online. Best Buy has long since recognized that people shop seamlessly across channels and it has adapted to accommodate that behavior. Great work!

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

We did a test with consumers five years ago around this exact concept and people loved the idea. Why is retail so slow compared to the customer? Especially in this day and age of “fail fast”? It’s a perplexing and complicated thought rife with thousands of excuses but, to me, this is at least three years late in the making. Perhaps the good results will give a giant hairball company like this more courage. Right on, consumer, lead the way.

Mark Self
BrainTrust

Assuming proper execution: costs go down, expert advice scales, customer satisfaction goes up. Nothing wrong with that!
This seems like it would be a perfect time to rollout pop up concept stores for greater reach in disparate, as needed, locations.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

I totally agree that virtual pop-ups are a great way to showcase new products!

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

Best Buy has taken a leadership position for online shopping by providing an actual human able to offer advice and expertise for shoppers. This should be the model for all online commerce.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

This statement above says it all: “Given that Best Buy’s online sales this fiscal year are on track to generate five times the digital sales pre-pandemic, it’s the perfect time to digitalize, scale and operationalize critical shopping services such as clienteling that spur sales and loyalty.”

This is another way to make a direct connection with existing and would-be customers and gain loyal customers. The profits will come if Best Buy can find the proper mix of support, product category and transactions.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Great strategy. Best Buy’s customers already appreciate their strong digital shopping experience. This will add more context and better service in a segment where customers often appreciate a more “hands-on” approach to product selection. I expect this will be a big win for Best Buy.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

Consumers prefer to shop electronics online versus in-store, so this effort makes a lot of sense. I just wonder how it will work together with a brick-and-mortar strategy for the products that shoppers strongly feel they need to test out in person.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

The article doesn’t mention how customers actually get the product, so I am assuming shoppers choose to have goods sent or BOPIS at another location.

I’m into instant gratification, so as a consumer I would still choose an actual store over a virtual one, especially with a big ticket item like a television or a refrigerator. Best Buy associates are friendly and knowledgeable in person, too.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Tech demos and outstanding customer service are a powerful combination that usually keeps shoppers coming back for more. And with solutions becoming more sophisticated and complex, having a trusted and highly knowledgeable Best Buy associate to explain features/functions is essential to positive net promoter scores. Additionally, the virtual store offers Best Buy the ability to always be testing new ideas, new ways of working with customers, and new ways to involve strategic partners, enabling Best Buy to optimize the mix of activities for the shopper’s benefit.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

The greatest potential of Best Buy’s virtual store is to deliver the product help customers want at the time they need it – when they’re browsing and researching online, before they even go to the store. We know most consumers do this for considered purchases in the product categories Best Buy serves, so it’s no surprise this is delivering strong customer satisfaction. Over the years, Best Buy has developed a reputation of having knowledgeable store associates so why not leverage that outside the store where customers are known to be doing as much as 60 percent – 70 percent or more of their product research? REI did something similar during the lockdown days of the pandemic when their stores were closed by leveraging their store associates in one-to-one selling sessions with customers. Customers loved it and REI kept the practice in place after their stores re-opened. I expect Best Buy will expand this virtual store to handle more customers over time.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Best Buy has long been my go-to store for appliances and electronic devices. Great selection and great service, both in-store and online. The Geek Squad service had been a huge loyalty builder for me, especially after several online sessions. So this virtual store is a great evolutionary step in selling and servicing Best Buy’s whole array of products.

To me this is a great reminder of the years it takes to build the bedrock of great service. This isn’t a post-pandemic brainstorm. This is a natural extension of the great work that the Geek Squad has been providing for several years.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

What’s not to love about this virtual store concept? Having just made an investment in a new television, I can tell you in the confusing world of LED, OLED, QLED, Neo-OLED and more, trusted and knowledgeable help was critical to my decision. Best Buy has done a great job of building trust, and the virtual store gives them a channel to leverage that trust with many shoppers that can’t get to a store. Brilliant!

Tara Kirkpatrick
BrainTrust

The biggest benefit to Best Buy’s virtual store is time savings, convenience, and confidence to shoppers. Digital clienteling has been a trend in China among luxury retailers, and it was a smart move by Best Buy to be an early mover with the service. Opportunities for the future could be securing pre-orders on new products and upselling personalization (e.g., device protectors).

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I had a wonderful conversation last week about this with three staff members in the store. I was excited, these staff members were lit up over it. Great move.

David Slavick
BrainTrust

I love the concept primarily as an extension of the physical store and the personalized customer experience it promises to deliver. As Best Buy expands the categories it offers and commits to train their associates on all features and specifications associated with it (e.g. white goods or exercise equipment or component stereo) the expertise generates both satisfaction and brand preference. I personally rely on Crutchfield as my “go to” source for audio needs and on occasion purchase accessories at Best Buy as a loyalty member. Where does their $199.99 TotalTech subscription model align with this personal high-touch virtual clienteling solution? Does it sync up or not?

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

There seems to be a general consensus about Best Buy’s legendary service. I’m glad to see that — though it makes me wonder what happened at my local Best Buy. My usual experience is to go in to see three or four staffers chatting together at the “Welcome Desk.” I’ll ask a question about where I find this or that gizmo and they simply point. Even when I was hobbled for a while and used a crutch — all I got was a point.

Maybe a virtual store works so well because there’s no one else for the staff expert to talk to but the customer!

Jeff Hall
BrainTrust
2 months 37 minutes ago

Best Buy has always lead the pack when it comes to building a trusted human connection in-store, through friendly, knowledgeable and well-trained sales associates. The virtual store and digital clienteling model is working well, in large part, because the brand has been very intentional and innovative in translating the same valued in-store experience to the digital sphere. In having the ability to serve its customers any time, any where, while building trust and credibility through convenience and knowledge, this model will continue to move Best Buy further ahead of that pack.

Patrick Jacobs
BrainTrust

Best Buy does a great job of understanding how to reach customers and reduce online and offline shopping pains. Digital clienteling builds relationships and trust on top of KPIs. Shoppers respond to insight and advice from face-to-face conversations. The sky is the limit for live commerce, Best Buy is on track to expand the live shopping initiative and will add value to customers, on top of sales.

scottjennings6
Guest
1 month 30 days ago

Best Buy sells the same/similar products as their competitors, so I love the idea of using expertise as the differentiator not only in the store but also through digital channels. Agree that a Virtual Store experience is not for every shopper, nor for every product category, but would not be surprised if some categories sell better in the Virtual Store. The same level of product expertise would be tough to scale in every department across hundreds of physical stores.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

Implementing a virtual store isn’t all easy breezy. I am quite impressed with how Best Buy has managed to efficiently scale operations around its digital initiatives. Additionally, fellow retailers can definitely follow the path laid down by Best Buy to achieve the desired results!

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

What is there to say except brilliant?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Assuming proper execution: costs go down, expert advice scales, customer satisfaction goes up. Nothing wrong with that!"
"Maybe a virtual store works so well because there’s no one else for the staff expert to talk to but the customer!"
"Digital clienteling has been a trend in China among luxury retailers, and it was a smart move by Best Buy to be an early mover with the service."

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