Apple at Best Buy
Stopped at the Eden Prairie, MN Best Buy store yesterday and was pleased to see several Macintoshes mixed in with the PCs. I’ve known for some time that there was a rollout occurring, but the reality of seeing it was disappointing.
The MacBooks were already dirty with body oil. Like a car dealer that has people whose job it is to clean the cars and keep fingerprints off of them, why doesn’t Best Buy do the same thing with ALL their computers? The sales staff was surprisingly clueless about the Macs (an off day perhaps?) and had only heard vague rumblings that the Macs could run both Mac OS X, Windows and Linux using Parallels or Boot Camp and thought my description of multi-OS use was pretty cool (hmmm….shouldn’t that be a major selling feature?).
The visual merchandising of Macintoshes wasn’t even close to the “Apple mini store” as shown and discussed in this post. The Macs were scattered all over.
This new store in Eden Prairie is apparently a showcase store just down the road from Best Buy’s headquarters and they use it for VIP tours and the like. It’s a fine location, well merchandised, but I find that — like most Best Buy stores I go in to — I know more than the floor people about most of the products they carry.
While cluelessness about Macs may be understandable since this rollout is so new (though preparing in advance would’ve been prudent), it shouldn’t extend to products they’ve carried for some time. Also, Best Buy needs a “Geek Stand” like Apple’s “Genius Bar” with a twist…
Case in point: while in yesterday I inquired about a Panasonic Web cam with a built in web server (my buddy Eric wants one for his cabin and I was curious). The guy looked it up, couldn’t find it, was clueless about these sorts of cameras, we looked around and finally he walked off. I figured it might be near the routers and other networking gear, and lo-and-behold I found two models of this exact camera on the shelf. If this was an isolated incident I’d let it go, but nearly always this is my experience at the stores.
I know that PC complexity works toward Best Buy’s incentives so major efforts to sell Macs works at cross purposes. They own the Geek Squad and I’ll wager the overwhelming majority of that entities revenues come from befuddled PC users. As I explained in this post about switching my Dad from a PC to a Macintosh, I could see how easily Geek Squad revenues would downtrend if more people purchased and used the less complex Macs.
Getting competent help must be a huge challenge and my rant still cuts them some slack. Stocking anything but middle-of-the-road products that turn fast must be more of a challenge too. But power users and technically savvy people DO NOT get our needs met at Best Buy and thus buy all the hot, new stuff online. I find Apple themselves don’t cater to power users in the Apple Stores and thus I buy peripherals and software elsewhere.
In a day when virtually every company is trying to figure out how to reach influencers in order to build buzz and drive adoption — and Best Buy is working hard on new strategies (see, “Best Buy: How To Break Out Of Commodity Hell“), I’m puzzled why they’re not empowering their floor people with base knowledge and figuring out how to cater to influencers and power users in their current strategy: the Best Buy consumer electronic store.
I’d suggest they install “Geek Stands” in the Best Buy stores. These people would be empowered to answer all questions and, most importantly, know how to seek online and leverage the Internet to answer damn near anything a power user or influencer could throw at them. They could also be places where manufacturers would roll out new gadgets early in order to build buzz and drive people into the Best Buy stores. Forget relying on Engadget or Gizmodo and trying to get favorable buzz built….use the bricks-n-mortar stores to let people touch and feel new stuff.
About Steve Borsch
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.