Best Buy exec talks 'total retail' strategy

Best Buy exec distinguishes ‘total retail’ vs. omni-channel

Ecommerce leader keeps an eye on both web and in-store experience

For an executive with the word “ecommerce” in his title, Thierry Hay-Sabourin seems to talk an awful lot about the in-store experience.

That may be because Hay-Sabourin, Best Buy Canada’s senior vice-president of ecommerce, is working to break down the walls that have traditionally existed between retail operation staff, customer service teams and those working on the digital shopping experience. This is a philosophy he said was referred to internally at Best Buy as “total retail.”

“We don’t like the idea that ‘channel’ is included in the vocabulary,” Hay-Sabourin told Marketing in an interview during the Dx3 conference about two months ago. “It forces people into siloes that we think our customers don’t see.”

Instead, Hay-Sabourin said his role within the broader marketing and sales operation at Best Buy was oriented around ensuring customers can not only make online purchases, but get in and out of physical locations easily. This is the company’s “reserve and pickup experience,” which allows customers to reserve from a product page online, see stores that have the product they’re looking at in stock and then reserve the item. This can be done with a simple phone number or email address, rather than a more traditional online checkout process.

The company promises customers they can pick up items in store within 20 minutes, but according to Hay-Sabourin, the average is more like 10 minutes, and some stores can accomplish it in even less time. Best Buy Canada has turned all 136 of its big-box stores into distribution centres for its website, he said.

Hay-Sabourin is continuing to enhance the total retail experience following a major glitch during last year’s Black Friday period, when its site crashed and customers were unable to process transactions for several hours. Though the incident generated negative headlines, Hay-Sabourin suggested it was equally critical customers enjoyed a seamless shopping experience on an average day, and at an individual level.

To that end, Best Buy Canada recently introduced multi-channel point-of-sale (POS) systems that allow staff access to line extensions and the virtual aisle of products in its web store.

“For every product in store, there’s usually an extra 10 online,” he explained, adding that staff can also help upsell with accessory or complementary products that aren’t seen on the shelves. “An item might be in stock that day in the store and the customer wants to leave with it, but they might want to buy a speciality wall mount, for example, but we only carry it online. We can enable it in one transaction.”

All this requires not only the right investments in technology, Hay-Sabourin said, but a cultural shift within the company about what customers really want, and how they are perceived across different parts of the business.  

“We don’t see the customer as the in-store customer or the online customer. They’re just the customer,” he said. “That means looking at the compensation model for our people, how we listen, how we come together to solve problems so they can leverage what’s best. I think that’s paramount, the key to the success so far.”

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