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Podcast: How Best Buy Is Blending E-Commerce with Store Experience

For years, Best Buy has been making significant e-commerce investments to enhance the shopping experience through the use of digital technology.

The business term is multi-channel retailing, which means we’re trying to make it more convenient to shop for products and services whenever and wherever you want. So you have the option to shop online from your couch, research online and pick up at a store, or drop in to a store and browse the aisles. After all, very few customers are exclusively online shoppers, and very few never buy online.

As Best Buy Chief Digital Officer Bala Subramanian recently told Seattle-based tech news site GeekWire: “Rather than try to think about e-commerce and looking at stores as two separate things — which we as consumers don’t anymore — how do we actually start to use digital as tying those two together so you can truly look at multi-channel retail?”

Bala discussed e-commerce in retail in more detail with GeekWire during a recent podcast. Read an excerpt of the interview below, and you can read a transcript or listen to the full podcast here.


Todd Bishop of GeekWire: What’s the experience like today when you walk into a Best Buy store? And especially when you use some of the Best Buy apps to enhance that experience? How does that reflect the transformation that you’ve undergone?

Bala Subramanian: I’ll talk about what we’ve actually done in terms of the last four years. The goal of multi-channel retailers … is: How do you make sure the customers’ experience when they go to the store is extended by the use of digital tools? And similarly, when you go online, how can you bring the best of the stores online? So that’s the whole idea of multi-channel retail for us and what we’re working on.

If you go to the Best Buy store today and if you have your app, we have a capability of actually making it in “local store” mode… and you can go and use the app in the local store — identify products which are actually in the store. When you browse something online, it will actually tell you that this product is available in the store. So we’re trying to make sure that we can bridge the experience between what’s happening online and in the store in a seamless manner using the app.

The second one we do is, when you go online and browse, we will tell you which product is available on display in a particular store. So let’s say that you are in Seattle and you want this TV. You can actually go see the TV on display in Bellevue, versus in Northgate. So our idea is, instead of trying to say everything has to move to one channel or the other, give the customers the tools so that their experience gets better in the particular channel they are in.

So that’s what we’ve been able to do, and that’s what you’ll see both online and in the store.

Bishop: It’s interesting because other traditional retailers … have gone through similar digital innovations and initiatives. … Has Best Buy started to reconfigure its stores to reflect traffic coming in from online buyers?

Bala: Yeah. If you go to a Best Buy store you will actually see, right next to the checkout lane, there is a place where you can go and pick up products. So we’ve already configured our stores so customers can go pick it up. … So we see most people coming to buy a product or pick it up in store, and they take a detour and look at all the things which are there, and then come back.

I believe there is a value in the stores and the retail. That’s the true multi-channel. Provide the customer the ability to shop where they want to shop, when they want to shop. I think that’s kind of the focus. But also give them the opportunity — if you just want to come in get it and get out, there’s a very clear way you can go pick up the products and leave. We’re trying to make the experience simple and easy for the customers, too.


Remember, you can shop anytime, anywhere with the Best Buy app