There is a Business Week article about how Best Buy is now flexing its market power to help manufacturers and brand owners to develop more marketable products. As the last standing consumer electronic retailers, now they don’t have much direct competition, but instead will be competing with two of the most hyper-efficient retail systems on earth – Walmart and Amazon.
Best Buy’s CEO Dunn has a vision and ambitious plans to play this game. The big box retailer business model needs reinvention and there is not enough value from selling LCD TVs and PCs. Best Buy needs to be the gatekeeper or tastemaker of consumer electronics. They need to turn their retail stores into giant consumer labs. That way they can shape, influence and even participate in development of new product and service platforms. It makes sense that the big consumer electronics companies won’t like the idea. They want to see the retailers to be reduced to just a distribution channel with little market power. That is not going to happen.
Best Buy will continue experimenting new ways to engage and enlighten consumers and grow its influences along the way. The big box retailer has optimized their format over the years by using clustering instead of standardized format. It has revamped hundred of stores, introducing "customer-centric" formats to appeal to local shoppers. Can Best Buy reinvent retail economics just as Apple did? Apple retail miracles have proved to be exportable. They broke every rule of retail economics.
Apple's Regent Street store (London) has become a tourist attraction in its own right. Most important it takes £2,000 per square foot. Compare to high-end department store such as Harrods or Harvey Nicols which is making about £700-£750 per square foot, while Topshop in Oxford Circus takes about £1,000 per square foot. Other high traffic electrical retailers average about £700 per square foot.
The most interesting thing about Best Buy’s strategy is the digital service platform; this one is not as easy. Blockbuster has gone down that path quite unsuccessfully. Best Buy bought online music service Napster a year ago and then took a stake in CinemaNow, Sonic Solution's movie-streaming service. I think they need a lot of more thinking to play in this complex landscape with Apple and Sony seeing this as their core. Thais is what Kai Patel, Best Buy EVP for emerging business is thinking all the time. Wal-Mart and Amazon has a slight cost advantage over Best Buy. Adding Costco and many other online retailers. Best Buy can never compete purely on cost. Best Buy has no choice but to rethink what unique differentiated customer experience can help transform Best Buy with its 1,000 plus stores.
What innovative new services that can create high margin revenue stream? What digital platforms they can effective build and effectively compete? What are the top three strategic partners (you've to pick your friends)? What is Best Buy new role in supporting product development? If Best Buy is a consumer electronics middle ware, what would they do? Can Best Buy effectively serve the unmet needs of small/medium businesses? What's Best Buy strategy for connective health care? What are the strategic options for redesigning and reinvention of current format? And does Best Buy needs a cool brand like Apple that separates the store from the products? It is probably easier to design a cooler brand than making Best Buy cool.I can go on and on. In the age of rampant consumerism – desire-driven market – Best Buy has a lot of rethinking to do.