A Forbes article about Best Buy going slowly out of business has been circulating among my friends. The bricks and mortar store seems to be headed the direction of Circuit City, and it’s unrealistic to say that Amazon is killing the electronics retailer. Although Amazon is tough to beat, its model is clean and efficient without the “store experience” mucking up the works or adding overhead, that’s not necessarily what’s ruining Best Buy’s reputation. Best Buy’s lackadaisical approach to customer service; it’s cattle call approach to checkout; its “loss prevention” tactics which, meant to seem friendly, are transparently suspicious of all and above all, its method of shying away from anything resembling a personal touch are what’s killing it.
We’ve all watched the “big box” stores make independent, local operations fail. Now we’re seeing Amazon eat a lot of those leftovers. Paying attention to what the survivors do well is important for businesses of all sizes. From the Forbes article:
Amazon neither invented nor appropriated its basic strategies from Best Buy or anyone else. It simply does what consumers want. Best Buy does what would be most convenient for the company for consumers to want but don’t, then crosses its fingers and prays. That’s not a strategy–or not a winning strategy, in any case, now that retail consumers aren’t stuck with the store closest to home.
An example of a company in the same market (and, incidentally, in my own backyard, headquartered in Charlottesville, Va.) stands out here. Crutchfield is an electronics company which began with the catalog model (as opposed to retail locations) and quickly entering and harnessing online sales ahead of other catalog operations. What separates Crutchfield from other electronics provider is its commitment to the customer experience. It’s real and it’s brand promise to its community has been kept over time and over a series of evolving platforms.
Crutchfield listens to its customers. It gives them what they want. It fully researches, tests, vets and explains products so customers feel comfortable buying, installing and using their products. They do this all online, over the phone and now, via social platforms. They’re responsive and generous with their time, earning customer loyalty for decades.
Are they ever going to beat Amazon? No, probably not, but the Amazon customer isn’t necessarily the Crutchfield customer. And the Crutchfield customer is never, ever the Best Buy customer. And that’s why paying attention to what customers want is important.