My last engagement with Best Buy concluded 4 years ago – and even then it was an organization under a radical transformation. These challenges have only increased in the past year. Additionally, many of digital savvy members of Best Buy’s leadership have left. Yet, I’m still quite optimistic for BBY’s future. I still think Best Buy has a unique opportunity to be an inspiring, forward-looking company – much as Microsoft and Google.
The most interesting move in this direction is the partnership between Best Buy and Target – where Best Buy’s Geek Squad staff Target’s electronics desk. They’ll be at 29 Targets – including the one down the street from me (curiously – not T1). This is a chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter partnership that makes you wonder what it didn’t happen sooner. For Best Buy – it exposes the GeekSquad brand and core expertise to a broader customer-base in a venue not know for it’s electronics expertise. Huge win.
Additionally, two other smaller, focused Best Buy stores seem very interesting. The first is the Best Buy Express kiosks in airports and malls (a partnership with Zoom Systems). All the most popular, in demand, portable electronics in a bookcase sized format. My last business trip, I picked up replacement noise-cancelling headphones from a BBY Express on my way to the gate. Easily my fondest Best Buy experience. The second is the Best Buy Mobile stores – focusing on primarily on mobile phones. In my neighborhood, there’s one just across the highway from a Best Buy big box stores. The smaller footprint and focus on portable devices makes them very attractive for strip malls with tight storefronts and likely foot traffic.
Best Buy has extended the Geek Squad brand, portable electronics segment, and mobile phone segment beyond the big box store. What’s next? What would be inspiring and forward looking?
In 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright built a gas station in Cloquet, MN. The architecture was based off his Broadacre City project – his vision of a modern urban landscape. Of the gas station he said:
“Watch the little gas station – In our present gasoline service station you may see a crude beginning to such important advance decentralization” – Frank Lloyd Wright
Today, our cars are mostly gasoline-powered mobile computers with wheels. Some of them are even electric mobile computers on wheels with gasoline backup. Whether it’s the electronics with the cars going on the fritz, the additional electronics we put in them not working right, or the two not talking to each other in the way we want our vehicles are now need computer support. Our GeekSquad needs have moved from the home office to the living room to our cars.
For years Best Buy has sold and installed car stereos. Though, it’s never felt like they really cared about that part of the store (same for home appliances). So, I say, send the car stereo section out into the world – just as they have with the GeekSquad and the portable electronics. Partner with someone that knows automotive, with a number of convenient, small footprint locations, and a well-known brand. Someone like JiffyLube. Use the partnership to promote the next generation of automobile technologies: self-driving cars, electric charging stations, natural gas refueling stations, replacement batteries, new interfaces between driver and machine, new passenger entertainment options, the next generation wayfinding systems.
Do something no one else can do – create a place that makes the future of the American car a reality.
Update 2 Apr 2013
Best Buy Co. and Target Corp. have ended their experimental Geek Squad partnership, the Star Tribune has confirmed. Blah. Thanks to MJK for the pointer.