Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Girl talk: Best Buy reaches out to women shoppers

I’m not exactly what you might call a typical denizen of the big box store. But if there’s one b-b where I actually enjoy shopping, it’s Best Buy.

Okay, enjoy may be way too strong a word, given that 90% of the time when I find myself in a Best Buy, I’m on a frantic mission from hell to repair or replace a failed or failing laptop.

But, in my experience, the folks who work there are unfailingly courteous, helpful, pleasant, informative, and -  given the frothing, frenetic state I’m typically in when I’m dealing with them -  wonderfully calming and empathetic. 

This may not be the universal Best Buy experience, but it’s mine at the outlet on the corner of Newbury Street and Mass. Ave in Boston.

Given my – dare I say – affection for Best Buy, I was interested to see an article in The Wall Street Journal on their efforts to reach out to women shoppers. While Best Buy’s overall market share of consumer electronics sales in the US is 22%, their share among women is a relatively paltry 16%.

The company decided to do something about it.

It is empowering female workers and tapping teenage girls to suggest new ways to sell to women.

The first thought that came to my mind was Helen Reddy belting out, “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” (Ugh.) Perhaps it was just the use of the word “empowering.”

Then I thought, oh-oh, I feel a decision to use pink coming on.

Fortunately, that is not the case.

Instead, Best Buy has set up mini-stores, focused on mobile devices, in the malls that women shoppers frequent – and they’re meeting with success.

Of course, one of the pleasures – and disadvantages – of city life is the dearth of malls to walk in, let alone walk to, so I don’t spend a lot of time as a mall rat. Next time I go malling, however, I’ll be on the lookout for one of the Best Buy Mobile outlets.

Another initiative that Best Buy started was building communities of women shoppers and employees, around the country, to kick around ideas. Some of which Best Buy has put into play.

One impact these groups had:

[They] helped increase appliance sales by suggesting that showrooms be redesigned to resemble kitchens.

Forget Helen Reddy, this sounds positively 1950’s hen partyish, no?

Anyway, I’m more apt to want to see my kitchen redesigned to resemble a showroom than I am to want my showroom redesigned to look like a kitchen, but that’s just me. Certainly, Best Buy wouldn’t want their show rooms to look like my kitchen, which could be used by the Smithsonian as an example of the final word in condo kitchens of the 1980’s – right down to the “almond” with oak trim cabinetry.

But at least they didn’t suggest that the kitchen be pink.

Best Buy also turned to teenage “consultants” for their advice:

"BlackBerries: those just aren't cute," said Taylor Brittian, 14, who recommended spotlighting iPhones and colorful phone cases in the front of Atlanta's Best Buy Mobile stores.

Well, Taylor, I have news for youse. My Blackberry – which doesn’t have the clunky and odious typewriter attached – is just as cute as an iPhone, thank you. But I will admit that the colorful phone cases would be a come on to me. (I promise not to shove any of the coveted teen consumers out of my way in my grab for the colorful pink phone case.)

Another teen idea: sanitizer beside the videogame test kiosks.

Not that I plan on spending all that much time test-driving video games, but great idea, this.

Speaking of videogames, the women shoppers came up with the idea of having space in the stores devoted to used videogames.  Great for the moms, I’m sure, but as for the kids… Gee, mom, thanks for giving me this videogame that all the cool kids have rejected. As if I don’t feel creepy and out of it enough already.

Initially, some folks at Best Buy had their doubts about the women’s groups, characterizing them as more or less Oprah-ish. (Actually, that’s the point, isn’t it?)

But their success, so far, speaks to the merits of the idea.

I have not – harrumph – been asked to participate in any of these country-wide women’s groups. (Perhaps they’ve seen my kitchen.)  Still, I’m happy to offer my advice to them, with nary a coupon in return:

Keep hiring the kinds of kids you have working at “my” Best Buy on Newbury.

I’ve yet to have to fight to make eye contact while two “associates” gab on about like, this guy, they, like know.

I’ve never seen their sales folks jaded, slacked jawed, with eyes glazed over with boredom. Having worked retail, I don’t get how this happens. (What, no boredom? No standing around trying to extract the square root of your Social Security number in your head while trying to look busy and engaged?  Retail sure has changed….)

Is there some special Kool-Aid in the break room?  Is it just the Recession, when any job is a good job. Are these kids working retail to pay the bills while waiting for their “real life” to begin?

Maybe they’re kind to me because I remind them of their (grand)mother.

Whatever it is, in the heart of Boston, Best Buy has managed to create a little island of Midwest nice.

The floor sales folks and the Geek Squadders I’ve met have been interested, enthusiastic, and helpful. Either that or they’re all Method Actors.

Want to keep this woman shopper happy?

Forget the showroom that looks like a kitchen. Forget the colorful smart-phone covers.

Just keep employing these Midwest nice kids. (Give ‘em all a bonus while you’re at it. You’ve certainly made enough off of me in the last couple of years to afford it.)


Chef E said...

I discovered your blog by looking for that elusive/eclusive facebook site for the rich and famous and found my self thoroughly entertained over here...funny how internet trails lead to gems...

Also, if they want my attention, have cheap sales where we all mob at the door at 8 AM and run to a big deep well of cheap sale items- I would use more electronics if I could afford the. Plus I spent so much money on a lap top years ago to only have it snap, could not be fixed, they basically said "Your screwed, buy a new one from us"!

No bitterness, I did buy a new one, this time I got insurance :)

taylorb said...

well i am Taylor, and i would like to say thank you for the feed back on what we have accomplished through this program. Most of the things we have done were to help more teen shoppers come and purchae things through best buy, and we came up with these ideas. I understand what you were saying about the used games, but there are other places that are succesful with this type of "program", but also sometimes used games are games that have just been released maybe a month before it was brought on the used game shelf. And yes I do believe that blackberries arent as cute as i phones, but that is because i phones are modern and they keep up with the new modern style of our generation.

Maureen Rogers said...

Taylor - Thanks for stopping by. Your point about the used games is a good one - they can be new and current, and still the user can get bored with them. (I still think my Blackberry's cute...)

Good luck with your idea generation activities.