As fewer customers find their way into brick and mortar stores, retailers continue to shrink and lose market share.
A handful of brave companies refuse to go quietly, however, and Best Buy is leading the charge. After testing their new free service in homes in select cities, Best Buy will be rolling it out in across the U.S. this fall.
At absolutely no cost to the customer, a salaried electronics expert will walk through their homes with them, recommending electronics to help fill the customer’s individual needs. Amazon is launching a similar program, allowing customers to test drive Echo and other smart home products in home with no cost or obligation.
Smart Home Consultations: Expense or Investment?
Best Buy is betting heavy on its in-home consultations, it has already eliminated about 400 Geek Squad positions in order to find the budget for 1,000 new positions.
Although Geek Squad members were encouraged to apply, due to their intimate familiarity with the hardware offered by Best Buy, the in-home advisors are ideally team members with excellent people and observational skills.
Their goal? To observe the home, the way the occupants use it and make a list of the tech that would be the most useful to them. They then arrange everything from delivery to installation and repair, like a personal brand ambassador. Best Buy is betting that the low-key recommendations and highly personal treatment will result in big purchases that customers might not have considered on their own.
So far this year, Best Buy shares are up 45 percent, it’s obvious its leadership has already made some gambles that have paid off big in a time when fellow retailers are shuttering stores by the dozen.
Amazon’s Smart Home Services Take a Different Approach
Amazon’s approach to in-home services is a little less personal and a lot more industrial, which is not entirely unexpected from the retail giant. In-home appointments are booked via the website; the employee who makes the initial visit may not be the same one who does the follow-up, though they will both work from the same data set.
Amazon’s smart home consultations focus on Amazon products alone, in the hope of creating brand-loyal homes with no other devices. Like Best Buy’s service, Amazon’s is designed to be a low-pressure, non-sales consultation that suggests ways to improve upon whatever the potential customer is already doing as far as smart home devices is concerned.
Whether that means installing Alexa-friendly doorbells or light bulbs, or investing in a security system that can be accessed via Amazon Show, the advisor will ideally suggest items that are helpful to the customer.
Both Best Buy and Amazon may find plenty of room in this space for growth. After all, some customers will prefer the personal attention Best Buy provides, while others will want a quick and anonymous visit from a friendly Amazon rep. It would not be surprising to see other high-end retailers go this direction to hold on to market share in the near future.