How Best Buy Is Revolutionizing the Way We Shop

When is the last time you walked into Target, Walmart, Kmart or (insert name of any major retailer here) to find they completely overhauled the footprint of their store? We're not talking one or two departments or switching out grills and patio furniture for artificial Christmas trees and those subtle inflatable holiday lawn ornaments but rather gutting the store and going with an entirely new layout. That's what I found when I visited my local Best Buy over the weekend.

Best BuyWhen I walked through the second of two sliding glass doors, said my customary hello to the security guard/greeter, and finally looked around I was blown away. Nothing (and I mean nothing) was the same as it was the last time I went shopping there. I actually found myself trying to determine how long it had been since my last visit—the construction project was that substantial.

Best Buy has long been known for experimenting with floor plans at various concept stores throughout the United States and they continue to push the envelope even though Circuit City, their biggest competitor, has gone the way of the dodo bird.

I couldn't help but ask a few employees about the motivation behind the changes and what shoppers can expect once construction is finished. The cashier I spoke with lit up with excitement when I asked about the renovation. She was incredibly knowledgeable about the project and even asked me what I thought of the change so far.

With this incarnation, their motivation is increasing connectivity both in the store, and online. At this location, they are getting rid of all departments—beyond creating a much more open floor plan (which I'm sure will increase the average amount of time shoppers spend in the store and thus drive sales), that also means the person helping you with a computer can also help you with any other product throughout the store (which means shoppers will now have a single point of contact, personalizing their in-store experience). They will also be launching something similar to Redbox which, according to the store associate I spoke with, will make shopping online and picking up your merchandise in the store quite a bit easier.

My favorite design feature was moving the wall of flat screen TVs to the back of the store. Once construction is finished, you won't help but notice a floor to ceiling display of high-definition action from the parking lot. And, like mosquitos to a bug light, shoppers will almost certainly be drawn there—and that means they're going to walk by a ton of merchandise during their round trip.

But not all changes will be occurring inside Best Buy. Earlier this month, they announced that ECOtality will offer Blink Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at 12 store locations by March 2011. I don't know about you, but if I ever happen to own an electric car, I'd much rather spend my time checking out cool new gadgets at Best Buy while I'm "fueling up" than standing out in the cold at a gas station.

Will Best Buy's concept stores and partnership with ECOtality help them rule the world of retail? Time will tell. Until then, I look forward to watching them drive innovation around the shopping experience.

Shawn Graham helps job seekers and entrepreneurs work better. Find Shawn at CourtingYourCareer, on Twitter @ShawnGraham or via email at shawn(at)

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  • Shawn Graham

    @Sandy - thanks for the comment. I love your passion for writing skills.

  • Shawn Graham

    @c. stadelmaier - there is no excuse for bad customer service, regardless of the franchise. And I think we can all agree this is a problem faced by most major retailers due to their unwillingness to pay for subject matter experts at the store level. Best Buy is doing some really interesting things around store design and mobile marketing--reinvestments that a lot of other retailers don't make or realize they have to make until well after they hit the iceberg. All hands on deck.

  • Shawn Graham

    @David - thank you for your comments. Your point about customer service can apply to virtually every large-scale retail chain except for, at times, Home Depot. If there are other retailers out there who are doing similar work around using store layouts and design to drive customer traffic, satisfaction, and sales in the same way, please leave a follow up comment.

  • Sandy Squirrel

    I'll start taking David Flory's opinion seriously when he starts using proper grammar and uses the correct words, like "they sell," not "they sale." The inability to form complete and comprehensive thoughts undermines your entire argument. Why should I listen to someone bash a bunch of people trying to make a living when you can't even write properly?

  • David Flory

    The only thing that has been driving Best Buys sales have been keeping pretty close with current market prices on electronics as well as keeping their costs as low as possible. This has enabled them to outlast their major competitors and to survive. The problem is for them is that while it is cheap and easy to drive sales with new looks, they still leave the door wide open for the competition in customer service and pricing. Their sales staff can easily help customers in any department simply because they know little about what they sale - most are not techs or tech savvy but are just under-paid kids. Their tech support service Geek Squad is a joke in the industry. Their prices are also barely competitive. This electronics store is on the same path as those before it which is going to lead to either buyout or bankruptcy. What is really sad is that Shawn as an expert is so easily impressed by bling that he cannot dig deeper to get the real scoop.

  • c. stadelmaier

    If I were investing in this stock, I would perceive this simply as rearranging the deck chairs. Today I went into a Best Buy to take a look at a specific computer because I believed the self-promotional hype about knowledgeable sales help. WHAT HELP? No product knowledge, not even as much as a scintilla of curiosity about the product being sold in the sales person I encountered. And THAT IS the shopping experience. (The experience was actually too strange to describe) No amount of hype, p.r. or rearrangement of the store will get me to buy. So I guess, it is back to Micro Center where the sales force "talks" computer.

  • Bill Gates

    I'm sorry but anyone that starts out their blog "Expert" is obviously NOT an expert.
    Your opinion is YOUR OPINION.