Best Buy Wants Deeper Relationship with Women

Discussion
May 27, 2009
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By George
Anderson

Last October,
Best Buy opened a store in Aurora, Colorado that the consumer electronics
chain created to be more female-friendly.

At the time,
the chain’s Ginger
Sorvari Bucklin told The Associated Press,
“Best Buy’s roots 40 years ago were with high-end audiophiles. Because
technology has changed so much, we know women make 45 percent of electronics
purchases. This is about serving women better.” Women today, according
to Best Buy’s estimates, represent a $90 billion market for consumer electronics.

Last week,
Best Buy announced that it was putting more resources and focus on its Women’s
Leadership Forum to help the company improve its relationship with women
shoppers and employees.

Today,
women comprise 29 percent of Best Buy’s total workforce with 31 percent
of those in executive positions.

“We’re
not known for being a destination for women,” Kelly Groehler, a spokesperson
for Best Buy told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We need to
change that. And if we’re going to grow market share, we need to make sure
that Best Buy is a great place for women to work.”

Discussion Questions:
What do you think Best Buy’s female-friendly ways will do for its business?
Does being a great place for women to work translate into a retailer
being more successful with female consumers? Conversely, do unhappy female
employees mean a company will have a tough time with shoppers who are
women?

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22 Comments on "Best Buy Wants Deeper Relationship with Women"


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Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 11 months ago

First, it is important that retailers not look at women as a niche target. They are over 50% of the population, and retailers, no matter what they are selling, should always create strategies that include female consumers.

With respect to Best Buy, electronic retailers have always targeted their stores to supply “boys with their toys.” But look at the market. Every woman has a cell phone, most have an iPod, the majority are using some type of computer, either desktop or laptop, and they tend to take more digital photos than men do. A smart strategy will make all electronic stores, including Best Buy, more female friendly, and less imposing and confusing. It is not about selling toys; it is about selling solutions for everyday life, and making people’s lives easier and more meaningful.

If Best Buy can pull this off, they will definitely gain sales, and market share. To date, no electronic retailer has executed this strategy correctly, but Apple has come awfully close.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 11 months ago

I think happy female employees would have little to do with attracting more female customers. With that, I think the real trick should be to help female shoppers understand why their husbands should spend $500 more for a 50″ plasma TV when a 47″ would be just as good.

Kevin Graff
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

Speaking on behalf of all men, we want a better relationship with women…we just don’t understand them! Kidding aside, how could this not work for Best Buy? Look at how Lowe’s and Home Depot changed the home improvement category by showing ‘end use’ displays that appealed to women, rather than just showing the product in boxes as in most hardware stores.

Women shop different than men (thank God!). You need to sell and serve to them differently, display your store more effectively, and communicate with them better. What’s surprising is that it’s taken Best Buy and others so long to recognize that women not only make at least 50% of the purchases, they also control about 90% of all household decision making related to purchases (remember the guy who headed out to buy a cool sports car, only to return with a minivan?)

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 11 months ago

I think that it is a good direction to focus on the female part of the equation. Most electronics nowadays are positioned as gender neutral so it makes sense to apply a layout and culture that is sensitive the their specific needs. This reminds me of the 5.75 foot gondola height rule we had for the cosmetics department at a pharmacy I once worked for. Every woman I know either owns an iPod or an iPhone or a BlackBerry or some other super high-end tech gadget. I’m always asked by my most of my wife’s friends as to where they can find a Wii Fit or some other Wii accessory every December 22nd.

Joan Treistman
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

Marketing to women is a strategy that is considered industry by industry…automobiles, financial services, salty snacks and now the electronics retailers. There are companies that specialize in training marketers and sales staff on how to engage women and create loyal customers.

I congratulate Best Buy for making public what they have ignored internally with their female employee practices and in the store by overlooking such a relevant segment of their consumer base. Will it make a difference? Absolutely. But they have to be sincere and circumspect in the effort. Women know the difference between respect and condescension. Since there are many companies that have gone through the same process, there is an opportunity for Best Buy to look around, ask around and take advantage of best practices already established. If they align those insights with more knowledge about their existing and potential consumer base, they will reap the rewards…not only with women, but those men who acknowledge their feminine side.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 11 months ago

What a great opportunity for Best Buy to engage so many more shoppers! With a solutions approach, women would be far more comfortable. Comparing features and tech specs of one item over another doesn’t really get us that much closer to figuring out if a product meets our needs. Sales staff needs training–to listen and help us determine what will work in our situation and why this product is the right choice. Then,if they can address long waits in checkout lines as well as complicated rebate and return polices–that would go a long way to keep us coming back.

Lauren Mang
Guest
Lauren Mang
11 years 11 months ago

Joel Warady: Excellent comment. I’m so tired of being thought of as a “niche” target and having everything immediately doused in pink and sparkles in an effort to appeal to me. Let’s hope they get it right instead of treating females like confused children.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

Let’s be a little careful with the statistics here. I find the female employees at Best Buy to be at the checkout and returns while the male employees are on the floor. In any case, happy employees, no matter what the gender, are good for business.

In terms of being “female friendly” a retailer faces a serious pitfall. If there is an assumption that women are less skilled in purchasing electronics than men, they will fail in their efforts. They will enter the store with a more open mind. Women will seek service and information. They will be less swayed by bells and whistles.

What is ironic is that if an electronics retailer trains its sales force to meet the needs of women shoppers, they will also meet the needs of male shoppers, but the reverse may not work.

X X
Guest
X X
11 years 11 months ago

Why does Best Buy need the “Women’s Leadership Forum”? Shouldn’t the marketing department be working on delivering products and services for women customers? Shouldn’t HR be working on female employee practices? Shouldn’t Best Buy be fixing their Marketing & HR departments if they are having problems? Every other company in most industries have fixed these issues long ago by changing these departments, not set up some gimmick to fool the public.

Shouldn’t nondiscriminatory practices be part of the Corporate Culture? Doesn’t having a program like the “Women’s Leadership Forum” show the company still doesn’t get it?

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 11 months ago

Concentrating on the value of women
Conveys an acumen of Best Buy within.
No matter how fiercely competitors try,
It will then be much harder to beat Best Buy.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 11 months ago
Reflecting on the RW article over coffee this morning I realized that I have bought my last two laptops, the flat TV, the converter box, and new pieces of the home stereo system from salesMEN–good ones, I might add. But, in fact I don’t recall even seeing any sales women in those departments. Hmmm. (Note: I am not referring specifically to Best Buy in all cases, here.) In contrast, my newest range and clothes dryer were sold to me by women sales associates who seemed to be present in about equal numbers to men associates in the appliance sections. I particularly appreciated the tip that the handle on a certain dryer I was considering (but which I didn’t buy) chewed up fingernails. Were all of the aforementioned sales people “happy” and does that bear on their competence and effectiveness? Who really knows? While I hate the idea of gender (or racial) profiling for either customers or sales people, I can see that this move by BB, over time, might help solidify and add to their… Read more »
X X
Guest
X X
11 years 11 months ago

I see that the “Women’s Leadership Forum WOLF” has been ongoing at Best Buy for years “focus to help Best Buy build an even stronger culture for women to work, and demonstrate market share gains with female consumers.” So by making their recent announcement Best Buy is admitting failure. They need to make nondiscriminatory practices part of the corporate culture. They need to change their Marketing and HR departments. Gimmicks like WOLF never work, real change does!

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
11 years 11 months ago
Yes, without doubt, I think that if Best Buy as an organization is a great place for women to work then that organization will be more effective serving female customers. In fact, I’d argue that while not 100% essential, the organizational culture toward women is extremely important to the success and sustainability of this marketing initiative. And, human resource and organizational behavior experts out there, I believe there is strong science and good research to support this. Serving women, or any other group effectively cannot simply be a marketing tactic….not if long term sustainability is the goal. In the short term, intelligent tactics, excellent marketing creative, and observable changes in the shopping environment will successfully impact how some women experience and feel about the Best Buy brand. However, there is very little chance that these tactics and programs will be sustained without a complete commitment to actually serving that constituency. There are just too many competing programs, too few resources, and face it, retailers are institutionally ADHD. Integrity, or the lack thereof, without exception, shows… Read more »
Brian Kelly
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

Best Buy’s move is not about demography, it is about their ongoing focus upon customer and household buying behavior. Two lessons here: 1. The primary target of a retail brand is the associate. 2. This isn’t about gender, it is about diversity. Change starts with the team that manages retail brands. Shifting corporate culture isn’t easy, but that is why we say: retail ain’t for sissies.

Doug Fleener
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

I applaud Best Buy for going out into the market and saying they want to attract more women shoppers and employees. It should be the goal of all retailers to have a work force that is representative of their customer base. At the same time it’s important that those employees be able to engage and relate with all of their customers.

When we first started the Bose retail stores, most consumer electronic stores were staffed almost entirely with men. We actively recruited and hired women because we wanted that work force to represent our customers. I’ll never forget the day I looked around at the district managers at the table and realized that we had more women than men. Over ten years later the CE industry is still dominated by men , but I admire Best Buy for taking action. I especially like they connected it into a higher market share.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

This is probably more press release than substance. Otherwise Best Buy would not be discussing marketing strategies openly in the public media. Anytime you see the words “leadership forum” in a press release is just some “make-work” project. I think Best Buy has already done an excellent job in marketing to women. Will having more female employees improve sales and the bottom-line profits? Ask Target or any other company that has tried this and make your own conclusions.

Seriously, does Best Buy want to be known as a destination for women? I doubt it. They most likely want to be known as a destination for shoppers serious about buying electronics. And even more important, a destination for investor’s money.

Mike Romano
Guest
Mike Romano
11 years 11 months ago

Best Buy is doing exactly what they should, albeit a few years behind the thought curve. Women control the majority of purchasing decisions in most US households, including electronics. What husband in their right mind would spend $1,000 or more on a plasma or other electronic toy without his spouse’s approval? The answer is no sane man who wants to stay married. So, congrats to Best Buy for finally figuring it out, but please do not market to my wife!

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
11 years 11 months ago

I don’t see any downside to these efforts. Thanks to the recession, consumers now (and going forward) have less money to spend compared to pre-recession spending. With retail competition still very tough, savvy shoppers willing to shop around, and fleeting loyalty, it’s critical that merchants reach out to new and/or underserved demographics. Best Buy’s efforts to create a more female-friendly company and stores is simply smart retailing.

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

We live in a technology world. Women, men, children…they are all technology neutral, separated by technology experience, awareness, and familiarity. Marketing to the technology level, rather than trying to apply this to a sex is more appropriate for BB to follow.

Amanda Batista
Guest
Amanda Batista
11 years 11 months ago
I recently purchased a Macbook at Best Buy. I was really excited to make the “grand switch” from the PC and had done enough research on the product that I knew I was just going in the store to purchase. The store associate, a high school boy, had a very arrogant tone and through his negative comments, made me feel like a silly girl who did not know anything about computers. I was really looking for my excitement to be reciprocated…”Hey, you’re getting a Mac!” But this young man insisted that Macs are too much money and that he doesn’t trust them. Aren’t retailers supposed to hire passionistas? Truth be told, it seemed as if my gender had all to do with it. He was merely trying to be “cool.” He talked down to me and questioned my purchasing decision–negatively. Rather than capitalize on my questions about accessories and seize the opportunity to upsell, he fired back with comments like “It’s just common knowledge.” How can Best Buy cultivate a deeper relationship with women? For… Read more »
Gregory Belkin
Guest
Gregory Belkin
11 years 11 months ago

Breaking the “boys with toys” stigma that is associated with electronics will be a challenge, but one that is winnable. No doubt that Best Buy currently attracts more men than women these days, but the ease and proliferation of gadgets like iPods and personal computers will slowly even out the line.

I think about my own situation. My wife, when asked point blank, will tell you shes not a fan of Best Buy. But when you ask her about her interest in an iPod or her own personal computer, it all of the sudden becomes “OK, I will check it out.” This is a winnable challenge for BB.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

Women control/dominate disposable dollars. So most marketers should have the same mindset and initiatives. Having said that and based on my most recent store visits, Best Buy is not focusing on women at the necessary level to accomplish their goals.

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