Is Best Buy Trying to Act Like an Independent Retailer?
The idea itself seems rather asinine, and even typing that headline out has me questioning my own personal sanity. But the idea that Best Buy is doing its best to borrow strategies from the independent retailer aren’t as farfetched as you’d think. And you really need to look no further than the recent news about the company scaling back its partnership with Vivint Smart Home.
Roughly a year into its partnership with Vivint, Bloomberg has reported that Best Buy is re-evaluating its relationship with the smart home installation and service provider. Already, according to Bloomberg, Vivint employees who were pitching connected home systems at more than 400 Best Buy stores were let go. And Vivint products were pulled from Best Buy stores. A quick search for the term ‘Vivint’ on the Best Buy website also returned no Vivint products, though it will bring you to a landing page with plenty of other smart home options. Additionally, the link to the Vivint Smart Home Professional Installation service returns an ‘out of stock’ page, and a notice saying that the item is “no longer available.”
“We are continuing to work with Vivint on ways to better help our customers explore, learn about and buy the latest smart-home products and services,” Best Buy spokesman Jeff Haydock said via email to Bloomberg. Vivint, meanwhile, didn’t respond to several requests for comment.
One the surface, the move seems illogical given everything Best Buy has said and done in order to make smart home technology a priority. The company has made merchandising moves in order to place greater emphasis on smart home technology; they’ve launched services that could make them consumers’ go-to in-home tech advisors; and they even projected in a recent investor presentation that the smart home management market would expand to a $41 billion business for them by 2020—up from $31 billion last year.
The Vivint system allows customers to manage their smart home experience—everything from locking doors, controlling lights, and checking security cameras through the Vivint smartphone app. Through their partnership with Best Buy, Vivint employees were available on the Best Buy sales floor to educate customers on smart home solutions and push their own products. It also allowed Vivint to get into customers’ homes to provide installation services.
And that’s where we get back around to the independent retail mentality. Best Buy will look to their Geek Squad techs to pick up the slack on the smart home system—perhaps with some assistance from Vivint, according to Bloomberg’s report. But it all ties into what Best Buy has been doing since it’s major rebrand. The company is dead set on making itself the consumer’s techy best friend.
What was so noteworthy about the commercials that rang in the brand redesign was how personable they were. Rather than pitch product, Best Buy let their employees do the talking for them, and showed how the Blue Shirt army can develop real relationships with their customers, and answer whatever questions they come to them with.
At the time when it was announced, the Vivint partnership made perfect sense for Best Buy. It showed that they could forge relationships within the tech industry that were win-win. Best Buy had experts in their stores who could pitch the smart home to customers, and those experts were able to pitch their product. Now, though, Best Buy is betting on itself and its employees to be those experts and to develop those relationships.
Ironically, that’s the same pitch that independent retailers have been making to consumers for years. Sure, they can’t compete on price with big box stores who have greater negotiating power with manufacturers. But It’s the personal, dedicated service that an independent can provide that makes your local shop a more attractive option than the corporate, money-mongering big box stores. Right?
Well, perhaps in realizing that that pitch has worked for the independent retailer—mostly, anyway—Best Buy has seemingly decided to adopt similar messaging. Whether it pays off, and whether they can convince customers that they truly can be a personable retailer, is the real challenge.