Wednesday, March 16, 2011

5000 words for improvement

Hello - Goodbye

This will be the last of my Open letter to Best Buy series. I plan on changing the subject matter of my blog to talk about other things that I care deeply about, this does not mean that I care about Best Buy any less, but I feel that by only writing about Best Buy limits the audience that can enjoy my blog, and by opening the subject matter I can write more regularly. No promises, just like when I started this blog, but I want to get on a regular weekly schedule of updates, let’s see what happens. By the way, in case it hasn’t been said enough: Although I am a Best Buy employee, I am a non-exempt worker who is not “on the clock” while writing this thus any opinions, facts, or musings that I post in this forum are mine and have no connection to the company for which I work (and love).
Due to this being the last of the series I figured I would go out with a bang, we’ll see how close I get to the 5000 word marker, so without further adieu…


This is something that I have been talking about to anyone who will listen for a long time, no matter the department or store that I have worked in I have always felt that Best Buy could improve awareness of the awesome things that it does. That is why this is the first category of improvements that I will be talking about. I think we can all agree that the company that does the best job of advertising has to be Apple, so I think it is through that lens that most of the improvements in this category can be viewed.

1. Message – Perhaps I am a bit pessimistic when it comes to what people get out of commercials, but I think that the message should be simple. Whether it is a TV commercial, Radio, internet spot, skywriting, etc. I think that we have come to an age where advertisements are trying to be entertaining or viral (perhaps we have always been in the age where ads are supposed to be entertaining). What if they were just simple – perhaps one my favorite pieces that we never aired anywhere other than in store was the Geek Squad Black Tie spot where a lady spills her “big gulp” style drink on her camera – the agent uses “the force” or a power similar to it, to put the drink back in the cup and save her camera. This is a simple and effective message that would help people realize one of the greatest kept secrets at Best Buy (GSBTP).

2. Increase the Budget – I understand that there is a finite amount of money in the budget for advertising and at the same time the audience is becoming more fragmented. With this in mind there is a seemingly endless stream of Apple commercials on the TV (showing off their very simple message). They are a smaller company than we are, but yet have the budget for this. (I would assume that it is because they are creating instead of just selling – this list of improvements isn’t just an ala carte menu it is more of a manifest of changes that complement each other, I will get to improvements that help Best Buy be more profitable as this document goes on).

3. A matter of focus – A lot of the problem comes down to the fact that Best Buy is doing a million things (I talk about this more in my Encyclopedia Best Buy article). It becomes difficult to assign who is going to get the focus (advertising budget) and who is not (who will be the Geek Squad and who will be the Magnolia). I have two schools of thought on this first is that the most profitable portions of our business should be the ones we advertise most (I guess it is business 101 if you have two products that both sell for $100 and you make 10% margin on one and 70% margin on the other – which would you rather sell?) The other is which is going to benefit the most from advertising – this one is more difficult because it comes down to many other factors. Let’s talk major appliances for a minute – this is a category where you can advertise for a few weeks at a time and not see any movement vs a TV or a computer – why is this? Part of the reason is how you do it, you have to get the message to where people can see it, part of the reason is that if the customer thinks that you are new at major appliances (not realizing that you have been selling them 30+ years) they may go to an old standby (Sears/Lowes), and the last part is that appliances aren’t an impulse buy (you can always have an extra TV, it isn’t as practical to have a second oven.) My personal choice would be to implement a heavy rotation of commercials that talk about the Value Propositions that we have created for our customers that no one else can match when we look at the entire package. This includes GSBTP, Geek Squad Services, Buy Back, Accessories, Knowledgeable Experts, Trade-in program, Pitch-in Card, our Exclusive Brands, Best Buy Mobile, and Reward Zone. Obviously these can’t all fit into one 30 second commercial you couldn’t even explain them as such, but if we had a series of commercials that explained each of these (and if the commercials could tie together so that customers would want to find all of the pieces) I think we would see a serious increase in traffic (and not just generic traffic numbers of extra people walking in, customers who are excited to be at Best Buy).

4. Product placement – With the diminishing number of people watching cable television commercials (due to DVRs, torrents, and streaming video) it would be wise to have shows base some of the plot around visiting a Best Buy. We can showcase many of the things that make us a world class company, such as having interactions with associates, fixing problems with products, installing TVs, etc.

5. App advertisement – As most people know a large percentage of the apps on the Android market are free and many of the companies that make apps accomplish this by using advertising revenue from banner ads and splash screens in the app. This could be a great area for Best Buy to start advertising, especially for Best Buy Mobile considering that the device that you are viewing it on is probably sold at BBYM (with the exception of US Cellular).

6. Delivery Trucks – Brand our delivery trucks with a large Best Buy Logo. This way everyone in the neighborhood knows where you just got that amazing TV, major appliance, or whatever else you are getting delivered.

7. Exclusive Brands – Advertise our exclusive brands. I know that part of the savings that customers receive on our brands is that we don’t pay for advertising, but I think that if we took our premium private labels like Insignia and Rocketfish, we could drive more awareness of these amazing products and have more people coming in specifically for our brands.

8. Portable Best Buy – One of the ways that we could have a greater impact with community events (like county fairs and major sport teams’ training) is to create a portable Best Buy store from a tractor trailer similar to the madden challenge or The Game Truck. There would be a few different styles of the truck to support different departments/inventory selections – with inventory either coming from a store, district, or territory level (depending on the event) and the revenues hitting the P&L of the source of the inventory/labor. The entire point of these would be to provide solutions for customers that may have forgotten to bring a piece of technology to the event, or found their equipment lacking once they were at the event. A great example of this would be at a training camp, learning that your kit lens on a DSLR isn’t enough to get the type of zoom that you wanted – we would have the better lenses at the camp, so no need to leave, 5 minutes later you are taking the type of pictures you thought you would be able to.

Reward Zone

This is one of my favorite things that Best Buy does. It is amazing to me how many people don’t know that we offer this program, and even more amazing that Panera Bread does a better job of utilizing the available technology than we do. With that said let’s make it better.
9. Automated – One of the coolest things that Panera has done to our Reward Zone program is to make it part of their register system. When I go in, they tell me what rewards I have unlocked and ask me if I want to apply them today. It would be amazing if you could do the same thing for a customer without having to print it out in store or at home – this saves ink/paper and time. This would make the entire process so much easier for what feels like the majority of our customers.

10. Tiered RZ – Reward Zone Silver is a really cool club, but I think there should be multiple levels to the program, perhaps a gold and platinum club as well – with the coolest rewards going to those on top. I would recommend having a place in the store that shows off some of the cool rewards that you can earn when you climb the ladder – driving some more customer loyalty. I would also not just use total amount of dollars spend, but perhaps add a certain number of transactions, or a stipulation where a purchase needs to be made once every three months, to prevent people from just making one giant purchase and jumping high into the ranks of loyal customers.

11. More after hours shopping events – “Look, it’s a party at Best Buy”. Having our store open after hours does two things. It helps our most loyal customers feel even more appreciated and it creates advertisement for our stores. We can take the time during these events to educate our customers on more of the awesome things we do as a company, or even the amazing things they can do with the technology we sell. Imagine not only doing the events, but before allowing the customers to shop freely we had a demonstration (or series of demonstrations) that they had to watch first (like going to a vendor road show, where you have to visit booths and watch demonstrations before you can enter drawings).

12. New Product preference – Special inventory allocation for our Silver level customers. On select new products (depending on the vendor) we should allow these customers to purchase products before the street date or perhaps just an hour before the store opens for the rest of the customers. When inventory is constricted because of high demand, they would be on a call back list ahead of any other customers. This would give more benefit to being a loyal customer. It is also more likely that these customers already understand all of the amazing things they can only get at Best Buy (GSBTP, Buy Back, Financing, etc).

Best Buy Dotcom

This website has been a growing and changing and evolving thing for a long time. We have made many improvements since I started with the company, but there are more that can be made.
13. Buy – They are arguably the best dotcom retailer in the business, we could just buy them and let them continue to do business as usual (while learning lessons that we can apply to our own website).

14. User’s Manuals – If we had a direct link to the manufacturers’ websites for products manuals our website would be a much more effective research tool for products (even after we have sold the product).

15. Twelpforce integration – What if there was an “Ask Twelpforce” button on each product where customers could send a question to Twelpforce and get some assistance with questions they had about the product?

16. Facebook integration – what if there was a like button for each product on like on the website.

17. IdeaX integration – There should be more mention of on our website, perhaps a banner or other ad that explains that we are gathering feedback through this website.

18. Product Videos/content – Products should have links to videos that show off their benefits (how people are actually using the product), links to reviews from partners like Cnet, and to the content that they can create (for products with cameras and microphones embedded in them).


The world is changing at an incredible pace, and our services do a great job of mirroring those changes – here are a few that I would suggest.

19. PC Building – What if Best Buy carried all of the pieces to build a computer in the store (we have them on the website so it isn’t really that much of a stretch), but in addition to having the pieces we offered a service where we could build the computer for the customer (we could then start selling OEM versions of the OS that could be sold with the motherboard).

20. Photoshop – What if we could take customer pictures and alter them. There are many Best Buy employees that already have the requisite skills to do many of the basic edits that customers would want – we could even optimize the process by having developing proprietary actions that can be applied to photos.

21. Slideshows/videos – Similar to the above idea, if we could create slide shows and videos for customers and burn them to a DVD (or just save them to a flash drive in a movie format). We could be heroes for the customers that want to show off their vacations, or other life events.

22. MMO Leveling – A leveling service for players of MMORPGS (World of Warcraft), where our Agents (or Blue Shirt game enthusiasts)would level characters for customers with a standard charge for total number of levels (this would be contingent on the store having someone with the requisite knowledge to do this). With the sheer number of gamers that we have on our staff, this would not be hard to implement – we can use best practices and higher level characters to make this even more efficient over time.

Alternative Business

Here are a few ideas that can bring in different revenue streams.

23. Green energy – What if we sold alternative energy systems and the services to go with them. Solar panels and wind generators. We could jump in ahead of the rest of the country and make a name for ourselves – and make it easy for people to become early adopters.

24. Gaming network – I have thrown this idea out there before, and I still think that it is a valid idea to bring in a new revenue stream (this idea could just as easily be in the traffic driver category). The idea is simple; we create a LAN in store and allow people to play games against each other for a fee. I have done this very thing at a Best Buy store without charging the fee to set up a Call of Duty tournament for the midnight release that we did there – it took us 30 minutes to setup 12 TVs on three different networks. The excitement that those players had to be able to do it was amazing and most said they would have paid to do this more often.

25. App development – This is also another idea that I posted a year ago on IdeaX. It is also a pretty simple idea, with huge benefits. If Best Buy were involved in App development (especially for the rapidly growing Android os) we could not only draw revenue from the apps, but position ourselves for the sweeping changes that are coming in technology (brining us to be similar to Apple as a creator of content as opposed to just being a retail store).

26. Venture capital – Invest in startup companies with a hope to fund the next big thing. And advertise that Best Buy is doing this. Perhaps even a social component where our customers could vote on what we should fund next (similar to what we do with @15 community).

Employee improvement

Before I start talking about this I think that at Best Buy we have some of the greatest employees of any “retail” company (it is still my firm belief that we should not classify ourselves as retail, but we should be known as something else, but that doesn’t change the fact that people look at us like a retail company).

27. More training – It seems like we do a huge amount of training in our stores, and we do, but I would liken this suggestion to a professional athlete. Athletes train all the time, because if you don’t work out you lose muscle tissue, and you can always improve on one skill or another. I would say that an employee should spend 10-25% of their time at work training (depending on the day). By this logic I understand that it means that an entire day out of the week could be spend training, but the benefit can far exceed the cost of giving up ground in the field of knowledge to competitors like HH Gregg.

28. Best Buy Reps – Many of our vendors have reps that come into the stores and educate our employees around products and reasons why a customer should pick their brand, what if we had a group of Best Buy reps that travelled around and did the same thing, validating employee training, spreading best buy news (I know we have programs for news, but not everyone reads, or remembers what they have read). This team would travel from store to store to ensure that everyone is on par – not just what a leadership team in one particular store believes, but to our high standards as a company.

29. On call – To better manage labor, what if we scheduled employees as on call, that way if we have a huge rush come in we can better adjust our labor and call in these employees – we could pay a premium for their labor during these hours, and still come out ahead of those times when we over staff and have to cut labor (only to get slammed by customers directly after the cut).

30. Remote Store employees – What if we used technologies like Skype to spread the labor around the country. Imagine if we had a terminal that a customer could access that was loaded with a video chat software – when all of the other employees in the store were busy, they could use this terminal to talk to an employee from another store where they may not be as over run. They could ask their questions (face to face with a live person), and get answers directly. Perhaps the customer wouldn’t even need to be in the store and could just an OMS transaction for a store pickup at their convenience.

31. Re-org – This isn’t the place to talk in depth about the past re-org or the structure that I would recommend – I would love to write about it in detail and I will if anyone from Best Buy wants to have a conversation about this we can do it on a more private basis.

32. Higher employee wages – Better employees come at a higher cost. I think that if we could increase the average wage of our line level employees we could have better employees (and retain them longer). Perhaps it isn’t just the wage per hour, but the amount of hours that we can give them. Again I can’t go into as much detail on this one in public as I can in private so I apologize for the brief, but to talk about this subject in depth I feel that it would again have to be an internal conversation.


Our accessory selection was great for our older business model, but as consumer electronics have changed, the accessories have stayed the same.

33. Cheap ones – Although we know better, and try to advise people to stay away from them, there are some people out there that think that their cheap cables are going to be as good as the premium ones. The problem that I see is that we don’t really carry an off brand – we have premium brands and private labels, but not super cheap accessories. Many customers will go to Wal-mart or Amazon to pick up a cable that is a few dollars less. Some stores price match (against the policy) with unlike brands – If we carried the extremely cheap accessories we could still capture those customers and present a cheap, good, better, best strategy.

34. More – One of the things that is disheartening is that we have a very limited amount of accessories depending on the department that you go into (especially Best Buy Mobile). Again I understand the finite amount of space and dollars that can be spend on maintaining an inventory, but there has to be a better way. Perhaps for phone cases (and this can be applied to other accessory categories). If we had several styles on display, but had the inventory in the warehouse (or backroom for SAS). Where we could maximize the total amount of styles of cases we could show, but just had to retrieve the correct one for the customer from “the back”.

35. Demo – We have lots of product displayed through the stores, but how many displays do we have that show off the abilities and versatility that accessories add to the main functions of products? Being able to have a demo of how an accessory performs helps drive sales (showing the difference between an HDMI and Composite cables for instance shows a much better picture quality).
Competition crushing
With more and more companies getting into consumer electronics (and mobile phones as well). It is possible that our message can get confused or missed with all of the other out there treading on our toes. Let’s crush them.
36. Ad Blitz - When a new store from any of our competitors opens we should saturate every type of media that we can make it known why customers should only shop with us. If we can tailor these towards strengths we have vs their opportunities (in the case of HH Gregg emphasize that we do not have commission, because it wasn’t right for the customers in the 90s, and it isn’t right now…)

37. Better service – Customer service is one of the things that we want to be best at, and if we follow our company policies, training, and standard operating platform we can do this – it is in those stores that have slid away from these basics of foundational excellence and they may need to be brought back into the fold. To do this we should increase the amount of “secret shops” that we do, but instead of using a third party to do this, it should be Best Buy employees from outside of the market that conduct these visits (preferably a mix of engaged employees –ranging throughout the company structure a good example would be council members). My feeling is that these employees are likely to have the best grasp on what is going on and what is missing in a store.

38. Steal the thunder – On the day of the Grand Opening for other stores, we should have large events with amazing giveaways and sales that are significantly better than what the competitor can/will offer. This runs the potential of reducing the amount of initial traffic that that store will draw, along with keeping them from leeching customers from us.

Traffic drivers

One of the issues the things that drives me absolutely crazy is when I am working in a store and there are no customers around (or just a handful of customers). Traffic is our life blood, those customers in our store represent our survival as a company, which is pretty obvious. There is another phenomena that I notice when the store is slow, the employee energy levels go down, meaning the next round of customers may not get the level of service that they should.

39. Road Show – One of my favorite things in the world are trade shows, I wish I could go to them more often. There are always new things to see, people talking very passionately about the product, brand, or whatever they are standing in front of. The possibilities of what these new things can do are always mind boggling. The idea is to transform some portion of the big box stores into a “road show” area, where every month there is a new thing that we are showing off to our customers. This could literally be anything, and the best part is that we could probably have a vendor pay for the labor and the materials to build it each month.

40. Traveling Best Buy show – Obviously we are making a bigger presence in malls across America with our Best Buy Mobile Stand Alone Stores. What if we had a traveling Best Buy event where we could show off many of the products that people would see in a big box Best Buy, along with Geek Squad to answer tech questions, and Best Buy Mobile employees to do things like phone cleanings, and invis-shield installations? These could be something we set up for a week (or weekend) in malls where we have Best Buy Mobile stores, or even the malls where we are trying to figure out if we want to put a Best Buy Mobile (or big box Best Buy in the area outside of the mall). This would be an amazing way to get the word out about a Grand Opening, but also a way to draw more attention to our brand and get people excited about shopping at our stores.

41. Location based Contests – Have a drawing for a free product – it could be anything from a $20-$15,000 prize for a random customer in the store at 1pm on Tuesday, as a for instance. We could do this for any store, or all the stores at the same time. Basing the time to be at the store on a time when traffic is typically light. This will drive sheer numbers of customers into our stores; depending on how well we advertise it – and how often we run the promo. If we do it every Tuesday at 1pm at a store for a year, customers will come to expect it and numbers will increase over time – but we must make sure that we are capitalizing on the customers that come into the store during this promotion – thus a $20 price is probably better, also if we give away a gift card instead of a product then the customer is likely to return to the store at a later time to redeem it.

42. Car Shows – To promote our installation bays and the amazing work of our Autotechs we should host car shows where people can bring in their cars and show off the work they have done themselves or had us do (either during the summer, or year round climate/weather permitting). We could invite vendors to show off their new products, and this could give us more credibility in the community along with requests for more services that we can offer in this area.

GSBTP improvements

43. Instant – What if GSBTP had an instant plan? This would be similar to the way that Blackberry phones are currently traded in, where customer could pay a premium. They could choose to pay it up front, (or an additional fee per month on phone plans), or pay extra (like a deductible) when they bring it in.

44. Chargers and Batteries instore – It would be great if a customer could get a replacement charger or battery in the store instead of having to call 1800GeekSquad or 1888BestBuy as these lines can take 15-20 minutes just to talk to someone (which can be aggravating for the customer).

45. Find my phone app – Sprint’s TEP plan comes with an application that allows for customers to find their lost/stolen phones. There are android apps that already to this on the market, but if we could have one branded with GSBTP and download it for customers that purchase this plan, they would see a lot of value in it, and we would gain more respect from our customers.

Credit Cards

One of the coolest things we can do for a customer is to give them “Free” money to shop at Best Buy, obviously they have to pay it back, by “Free” I am just talking about the fact that you can use a Best Buy credit card for an extended amount of time without paying for the use of the money (No Interest).

46. Secured – What if a customer with unfavorable credit could get a “secured” Best Buy credit card in store, where they could create their balance by paying up front. This would be great for customers who are looking to build credit, but even better for those who want to pay for a deposit on a cell carrier, especially for those where we can’t take cash.

47. Gift cards – One of the more common things people are starting to ask for is to be able to use their gift cards to make payments on their Best Buy cards. If we get out in front of this movement and become on the first retailers to do this, we could create a great deal of customer loyalty.

48. New Promotions – If we gave away free accessories, delivery, or installations with use of one of the cards, we could influence more new applications for the card, along with promoting the use of the card and building more value for customers who have it already.

Well it looks like I have exceeded the 5000 word mark, so I am going to end at this point – in my original notes I was going to go from department to department to make suggestions and while I was at it I would probably come up with a few more categories, but I think that if I don’t stop here this could quickly become the length of a novel. I hope that you have enjoyed the Open letter to Best Buy series – I will attempt to be more brief in my next series of blog, with a goal of least one article a week. Thank you for reading.


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