Will Educated Consumers Shop at RadioShack?

Discussion
Oct 19, 2006

By George Anderson


Bob Kilinski, RadioShack’s vice president of marketing, said, the retailer’s mission is “to help people get the most out of technology in every neighborhood in America.” Now, the consumer electronics chain is looking to do just that with free online courses for its customers.


RadioShack customers can find classes on topics such as choosing the right computer, digital photography techniques, selecting home theater equipment, and how to select and set up a high definition television at the RadioShack Learning Center. The courses will have staggered start and end dates throughout October and November.


All courses are free, but are limited on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants who sign up can take the courses at their own pace with the average class taking less than a month to finish.


“Customers give credit to RadioShack for its knowledgeable sales associates who help them understand new technologies and select the best solutions for their individual needs,” said Cara Kinzey, RadioShack’s senior vice president-information technologies in a company press release. “We’re now bringing that distinctive world-class customer service to online shoppers as well.”


“We need to be out there giving advice and building loyalty and trust in the RadioShack brand,” Mr. Kilinski told The Associated Press. “This is an extension of our offline brand.”


The hope at RadioShack, of course, is that it can win sales converts as a result of its new educational service.


Dave Ellett, chairman and CEO of Powered, Inc., the firm that is developing the online curriculum for RadioShack, said, “Consumer electronic products are converging now more than ever, and retailers who best educate their customers on how to make the most of new technologies are the ones who will build brand loyalty and sell more products.”


Patti Freeman-Evans, a retail analyst with JupiterResearch, said, “Retailers are constantly trying to understand what kind of content will help them drive more sales. This is not going to solve their (RadioShack’s) store problems, though it is a step in trying to differentiate themselves.”


Discussion Questions: Will RadioShack’s free online courses translate into additional sales for the retailer? Which retailer or retailers do the best
job of educating customers to build top and bottom line performance?

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14 Comments on "Will Educated Consumers Shop at RadioShack?"


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David Zahn
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Seems like a smart move to me. The world of electronics is baffling for many consumers and rather painful to “get right” with connectivity, cabling, pixels, definitions, memory sizes, etc. Any move to simplify, hold the hand of the consumer, and nudge them to buying Radio Shack products is a good thing.

At the same time that it is confusing for the consumer, it is also becoming more of a commodity item with competition being found on the web, various retail outlets and alternative trade classes. Being able to distinguish oneself from the others is a positive step.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 7 months ago

Yes, these classes will help RadioShack, as long as they’re willing to accept people will also take what they learn to other retailers. What RadioShack is doing is acting like a market leader by doing things that will help grow the total market and in so doing they’ll grow their own business even if they only hold the same share.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Education is always a good thing to make available, particularly in new technologies. Increasing RadioShack’s association with knowledge/expertise here should be a good thing. The problem I’m not sure it addresses is consumer’s perception of RadioShack as “today’s technology expert.” Maybe this is generational, but I associate RadioShack with speaker wire and telephone jacks — not computers and PDA’s. That’s Best Buy/Circuit City/CDW territory for me. Others?

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 7 months ago

Good idea. I’d also like to see it supplemented by in-store training classes as well. Could be problematic because of the small size of many of their stores, but why not pull together a dozen chairs, set out coffee and doughnuts, and have 60 minute workshops on topics like these an hour before the stores regularly open? Then, you’d really create a sense of community and attendees might hang around afterwards and buy something.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Customer education helps sales. RadioShack might help itself even more if it sold online courses (for Microsoft software certification training, for example). Undoubtedly, RadioShack’s competitive and profit problems won’t be solved with the single silver bullet of online customer courses. But if the cost to RadioShack is low, there will be a payoff.

jeff aurich
Guest
jeff aurich
15 years 7 months ago

Will they “expel” any students that fail the online courses via e-mail?

John Hennessy
Guest
John Hennessy
15 years 7 months ago
Conceptually I’m a huge fan of customer education as a relationship and sales building program. Particularly where more education makes customers more familiar with the added benefits of new offerings like HD TV, or organic products. Execution is the challenge. I took the first lesson of RadioShack’s HDTV course. It was informative but overly so. As a potential HDTV customer, I don’t need to know as much information as they want to offer – such as details on the legislation that will require an upgrade to digital television. I need to know that HDTV will let me see the laces of a baseball, or count the wing flaps of a butterfly. I need to know that I can plug it in and it will work but that I need an HDTV signal to get my draw to drop to the floor. I don’t care if it takes millions of pixels or bags of pixie dust. If RadioShack can fulfill its “We Know…” customer promise with succinct, helpful information that educates customers on product benefits (not… Read more »
Edward Herrera
Guest
Edward Herrera
15 years 7 months ago

I agree RadioShack has a jack and plug perception with its customers. They have an opportunity to enhance their image to a do-it-yourself electronics store. As technology changes, they can keep their customers ahead of the rest. I don’t have a tech degree but I shop at RadioShack.

gerald lopez
Guest
gerald lopez
15 years 7 months ago

I think what RadioShack is doing is great. It’s about the “Customer” first, profits later. After all, I know I have spent money on wire that I thought I needed and found out that I didn’t need it and/or it was the wrong wire. If you add that up in dollar amounts it’s a very costly lesson. What RadioShack is doing is educating the customer before they make that costly mistake. I will most certainly have loyalty to that company that will invest and educate the customer first.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 7 months ago

I really don’t think it will benefit RadioShack beyond some good publicity. Customers who need help will rely on the store personnel and informed customers will find less expensive sources for their needs. RadioShack, unfortunately, doesn’t have meaning for most consumers. They don’t provide the cheapest and they don’t provide the best. RS needs a reason for being and I don’t believe education is going to get them there.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
Carol Spieckerman
15 years 7 months ago

This sounds like a great idea — along the lines of Home Depot’s in-store learning clinics which of course turn “students” into buyers of project materials. I am impressed by the job that Wal-Mart is doing with HP. The step by step, build-your-own computer signage which walks consumers through good, better, best options and explains which components are better suited to particular users (gamers, business people, etc.), is about the best it can be in a mass retail environment (well, short of mandating assisted sales in CE which seems like a no-brainer and yet…). Wal-Mart’s similar effort in the camera area with cleaned-up corded displays and educational signage are also a vast improvement. Sears Holdings’ emergence from its re-org cocoon and new advertising campaigns are fascinating to watch. Will their recent move to add wireless lounges to select stores provide an onsite do-it-yourself educational and price comparison opportunity that will keep consumers from walking?

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 7 months ago

Now tech-inadequates can shack up at their local RadioShack
only to eventually learn that what they learned there has probably already become passe. But any time you can get involved with your customers and potential customers, you have a potential pathway to success and this is a good idea.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
15 years 7 months ago

I’m with the majority. Seems like an excellent idea to me. But I can see a real need to somehow pre-screen the classes. It is not always going to be possible to go at the same pace for everyone who signs up. Maybe they’ve thought of this. I haven’t taken a course, but if they did not plan for different levels of student ability, I am afraid it could quickly become a turn-off.

Vahe Katros
Guest
Vahe Katros
15 years 7 months ago

RadioShack may have an appeal to the technical laggards – they may also be the go-to place for the folks that Best Buy etc is not after due to BB focus on the Angel Customers – the other side of the bell curve of adopters is = to the front side so this could be a great move to start the sales cycle. Proximity to these folks due to their numerous locations may help as well in selling to this group. (I believe the statistic is they have stores that are 5 minutes away from 90% of Americans.) This is a big segment that will be adopting soon. If RS can deliver the follow-up total customer solution, then this may be a great move.

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