Best Buy's Customer Experience And The Art & Science Equation

The Challenge

Brick-and-mortar retailer Best Buy was limping along, using what data it had to create and executive a loyalty program called My Best Buy. Its customers experienced a disconnect between what they found online and what they found in the stores themselves. In its baggage, it carried the old print insert, not a very flexible tool.

But it knew it was sitting on a wealth of information so it set about to explore what it had and what it could do with it. Three years ago, it invested in a year-long exercise to bring together data from across the organization. “We talked about what was possible, but couldn’t implement anything,” Andy Gorski, senior director of marketing, told MediaPost’s Brand Marketers Insider Summit in March 2018. (Here’s a link to the video presentation.)

Best Buy wanted to combine insights and audiences to make them actionable. It wanted to be dynamic, selling what it wanted to sell when it wanted to sell it. And to have the delivery of customer needs on their terms be the focus of what it was trying to do.

So it began its journey with data.

The Execution

Starting with segmentation, Best Buy dug deep to identify people as individuals. High-touch tech fans came to represent the center of its bull’s eye, with an emphasis on Millennials and those with disposable incomes. But what set those fans apart was the idea of their wanting to be a part of a technological solution, to have Best Buy as a resource, a partner. They wanted someone to validate what they were thinking.

Segmentation was a six-month exercise, a mix of behavioral components that made each one different as it looked at tech adoption as well as traditional demos such as household income. The company wanted to make sure the groups it focused on were truly inspiring because of the impact they would have on the broader group. The final groups reflected Best Buy’s opportunity as a retailer that offers online and offline customer experience. And that is where those high-touch tech fans started to coalesce as a group.

The retailer took its proprietary data, consumer insights and research and put it in a database it calls Athena (the goddess of wisdom). With a volume of customer identification, it found ways to pull in triggers in real time from the environment as well as consumer behaviors. For example, if it was spring, when pollen counts go up, consumers would get an email about air purification. If a customer was in Dallas and Best Buy had an event taking place there, they would get an invitation. The triggers were being pulled based on Athena targeting.

In real time, still so much of what the company can do is trigger based and often creates an opportunity but then the actual message is highly personalized based on that audience. The moment is the trigger, and the high-tech task force is the creative icing. 

Its email program, Gorski said, starts with discovery, gets consumers inspired, offers well-timed deals and then opportunities to make sure the buyer is making the most of that decision, followed by more content to keep consumers engaged. It uses proprietary tools developed in-house to personalize email.

The company took Instagram content from influencers and brought that into the digital experience and then leveraged that content and delivered it through Cnet and through social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

The Results

Personalization drove results. Best Buy enjoyed higher opens, an increase in sales and other positive numbers. 

Data changed the role of marketing. There had been a lot of pressure on the department as a cost center, but because the use of data has improved sales, there has been an organizational shift to its being a profit center. Using the trigger points, Best Buy is now leveraging the ways data can be used and isolating trigger points to drive revenue. And media buys are being influenced in real time. Costs are coming down, return is going up. The internal dynamic changes the conversation significantly.

Because of its Athena database, Best Buy has the ability to send 80 million unique emails but it is impossible for any human to scale. Enter the robots. With automation, the company can be more impactful and more in real time. It isn’t there yet, but Gorski says it’s making huge strides. 

Key Takeaways

  • Take the triggers that occur in the marketplace, add in data about customer segmentation and put those pieces together in the most effective way possible. 
  • Use data and creativity to deliver on what you want to see from a customer experience perspective. 
  • Give sales associates access to everything the digital experience can bring to bear to connect the offline and online experiences for customers.
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