3 reasons why Best Buy’s virtual store is a brilliant idea

Some retailers just understand what omnichannel retailing means better than others, and Best Buy
BBY
is one of those shopkeepers.

The same week it raised its year-end earnings estimates, Best Buy also unveiled an ingenious new concept called the “virtual store.”

Simply put, Best Buy’s virtual store is a 40,000-square-foot mockup of a real store in a warehouse in Bloomington, MN. According to the Star Tribune, the store is intended to act “more like a Hollywood set,” from which Best Buy can deliver “a new type of interactive, digital shopping experience that leaders say is the next step in the evolution of retail.” .”

In other words, the virtual store is a way to provide the same great service online that Best Buy customers have come to expect in-store.

In this case, the virtual store has “a gym with personal trainers and equipment”, another space “dedicated to Microsoft
MSFT
laptops and devices,” and it’s also full of “cubbyholes for staff to have more private conversations with customers as well.”

About 120 Best Buy employees work directly from the virtual store, and another “several dozen” salespeople are on hand to help with customer demonstrations. All told, Best Buy says it estimates customer satisfaction scores have increased by 20% since the introduction of the virtual store to the public.

And those stats shouldn’t come as a surprise either.

Because Best Buy’s virtual store concept is brilliant for three main reasons.

#1 – Scale

By centralizing all customer service activities from one warehouse, Best Buy can serve the entire country through that one company.

In many ways, a virtual store is just another version of a customer call center, but one made even better by new technologies such as live video calls and online virtual product demonstrations.

#2 – Service consistency

Second, Best Buy’s virtual store not only benefits from economies of scale, but also allows for better customer service consistency because it’s set up to have the same people interacting with customers day in and day out.

This setup is in stark contrast to all the money thrown at customer solutions that try to put customers face-to-face with representatives from their local stores. The drawbacks of these solutions are many – for example, staff turnover is always high at the store level, so such solutions require constant training and upskilling and therefore make it difficult to provide a consistent level of customer service to the end consumer.

Best Buy’s virtual store circumvents these obstacles by always providing Best Buy with a stable location, with fully trained and staffed employees.

#3 – Post-purchase revenue generation and cost savings

Add-ons and post-purchase returns can literally make or break an online retail business, but the beauty of a virtual store idea is that it helps to increase the former and also decrease the latter.

Compared to an impersonal traditional e-commerce experience, where a consumer simply uses their browser, searches for what they want, and then clicks a buy button, the Best Buy virtual store is built to provide a more personalized experience. , visual connection with customers.

This personal connection is likely to help customer service reps get to know their customers better and is also likely to warm customers up and make them more receptive to any upsell recommendations the service rep might make.

But most importantly, that same bond and extra time spent with customers also helps reduce the biggest pain point of online shopping, which is customer returns. Online customer returns were nearly 21% of sales in 2021, according to NRF, so any reduction in returns Best Buy can get from its virtual store translates into an immediate profit improvement.

And you have to consider that knowing who your Best Buy blue shirt is by name and seeing him or her firsthand on the other end of a live online interaction could go a long way towards achieving that goal.

All in all, Best Buy’s virtual store brings scalability, efficiency, and business improvement by adding a few unique twists to ideas customers are already accustomed to.

All this is a hallmark of good retail in the 21st century, because there is no point in remaking the wheel for no reason.

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