Best Buy builds a virtual store to assist customers remotely
Distribution centers have taken on a more important role in retail as e-commerce ordering has dramatically expanded. Best Buy is now using one of its distribution centers not just to fulfill orders, but to engage with customers virtually.
On its second-quarter conference call, Corie Barry, CEO, said the chain will be piloting a “virtual store” in a distribution center leading up to the holidays.
“We are building out a physical store in one of our distribution centers that will have merchandising and products and will be staffed by dedicated associates, including vendor-provided expert labor, but it will have no physical customers,” said Ms. Barry. “Instead, customers can interact with our experts via chat, audio, video and screen sharing depending on their preference and be able to see live demos, displays and physical products.”
She added, “We are excited about the customer use cases this provides. For example, you could be on our dot-com experience, click on a product you like and be connected via video to a Blue Shirt in the Best Buy virtual store and never leave your living room. Or you could be standing in a store, scan a barcode and be taken through your phone directly to this virtual store where an associate could answer your question.”
Best Buy has also been experimenting with new store formats, including an experiential store in Houston with large sections dedicated to gaming, headphones and fitness, and with a bigger-than-average Geek Squad presence.
Giving remote customers a view into the distribution center may be unique, but similar trends like livestreaming have already begun putting e-commerce customers into closer contact with the retailers where they shop.
In apparel, for instance, livestream shopping began to experience an increase in adoption in the U.S. during the early days of the pandemic. The technique, in which online customers interact in real-time with people selling products via live video feeds, was long popular in Asia. In the midst of lockdowns, U.S. luxury brands such as Rebecca Minkoff began leveraging U.S.-based platforms like Amazon Live and Instagram to facilitate the shopping experience.
- Best Buy (BBY) Q2 2022 Earnings Call Transcript – Motley Fool
- Best Buy experiments with store concepts to keep ahead of customer trends – Star Tribune
- Best Buy produces record results doing things differently in the pandemic – RetailWire
- Is the pandemic pushing livestream shopping into the mainstream? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of the use of “virtual stores” to provide ways to remotely assist shoppers? Do you see such a virtual store providing a bigger benefit to the in-store or online experience?