Best Buy Desperately Needs Indoor Location to Improve Customer Experience

Best Buy appI was in my local Best Buy on Saturday looking at computer monitors, Windows PCs and TVs. It was a complete mess — literally and figuratively.

The sales/customer service people were either overwhelmed, ignorant or indifferent. And the “store-within-a-store” product reps are everywhere: Google, Microsoft, Apple, Jawbone. Yet these people can only help you with (try and sell you) their products. They generally don’t know anything about anything beyond their own products (though the Apple guy was helpful about non-Apple stuff).

I was continuously running into Best Buy staff who told me that they “didn’t work in this department” and so couldn’t help me. (I had a much, much better in-store experience at Target later the same day.)

If ever a store needed indoor location and in-store product finders it’s Best Buy. At one point I was simply trying to locate a particular ASUS Windows machine that appeared in a Best Buy ad.  No one knew here it was or seemed to be interested in helping me locate it.

I get that holiday shopping at a store like Best Buy is chaotic. But people should be able to find advertised products at a minimum.

Most retail apps began as small-screen versions of stores’ e-commerce sites. That approach still defines most retail apps. A few are starting to integrate indoor location and other relevant in-store information. But they’re the exceptions.

Retailers need to see their apps as in-store customer service and sales tools that can be consulted by customers when humans aren’t available, are indifferent or poorly trained. I potentially would have spent hundreds of dollars at Best Buy but left because I couldn’t get help. A more complete in-store app experience could have solved all these problems for me — and saved the sale.

Ideally retailer apps could shift their emphasis and content depending on user location. Outside the store they would emphasize different types of information vs. inside the store, where they would transform into shopping assistants, offering product information, reviews, indoor product locations, promotions and so on.

The precise balance between in-store and “online” information must be worked out through testing and trial and error. But it’s clear that retailers need to update their apps with the understanding that they could improve the in-store customer experience. Accordingly they could help generate increased in-store sales and improved brand loyalty.

In an even more useful version of the scenario above, retailer apps would recognize the cross-platform use case (Target does this now) where research starts at home (devices vary) and is called up in the store (on a smartphone).

I suspect it will be at least a couple of years before we see retailer apps mirror consumer needs and behavior like this, however.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed.

2 Responses to “Best Buy Desperately Needs Indoor Location to Improve Customer Experience”

  1. Street Fight Daily: Applebee’s Serves Tablets, Digital Wallets Still Lackluster | Street Fight says at

    […] Buy Desperately Needs Indoor Location to Improve Customer Experience (Screenwerk) Greg Sterling: Retailers need to see their apps as in-store customer service and sales tools that […]

  2. Michael Brill says at

    Indoor location seems like such a game-changer for retail… I think if the Apple retail rollout is good then it’ll be mayhem as every retailer tries to provide great customer experiences. However, as you pointed out, it’ll probably take a couple years before they get it right – just as their current mobile apps suck, there will be mobile apps with micro-location that suck.

    Working on this for wine retail and it’s nuts how cool this is.

  3. Greg says at

    Best practices will have to emerge and they’ll probably be different for different retail and in-venue scenarios. But it’s good that you’re starting now. Agree that experiences will be variable. 

  4. Apple Driving Indoor Location Revolution With iBeacons In All Its 254 Stores says at

    […] may be less shy. Those retailers not experimenting with indoor location, which has a range of B2B, B2C and analytics uses, may find that it is now time to […]

Leave a Reply