The Death of "Showrooming": How Digital Marketing is Better for Best Buy
This was written for CAS 839: Media Analytics in the Michigan State University Strategic Communications MA Program.
Within the last month, I purchased an 85” TV, a Marshall bluetooth speaker, a turntable, and some vinyl records at Best Buy. For the TV and for the speaker, I researched brands and compared prices on the Best Buy site (on my computer, iPhone, and iPad at various times). In-store, I asked an employee questions in the store's Magnolia-branded section.
What Best buy knows about me (through session and persistent cookies)
Location (user choice)
Name, address, phone number, and purchase history (Rewards account)
Viewing history, device usage, site duration (cookies)
Number of pages viewed
Number of site visits
Total page views
Chats session duration
Abandoned shopping cart data
(Bustillos, 2021; Batra, 2018)
Top 10 Websites
I did not notice any targeted ads as a result of my Best Buy purchases—for this assignment. But I have in the past, with Best Buy ads showing up on news sites and on Facebook as sponsored ads). I've seen ads for turntables and vinyl records on various websites as well.
Of the top ten sites above, celebrity gossip site crazydaysandnights.net (CDAN) is the most advertising-saturated. In fact, it is practically an aggregate site. I realize it is not my best digital behavior, but I am a fan of guessing celebrities mentioned in blind-item gossip items.
I noticed these display and banner ads on CDAN:
Capital One Recruiting Ad
I visit Indeed and the Capital One sites frequently. This ad more than likely combined both behaviors.
After refreshing the page several times, I noticed banner and display ads for:
Amazon Pharmacy (new service/product awareness)
Amazon Basics (home decoration and furniture)
Amazon Pet Supplies (“More bang for your bark display ad)
Rivet Furniture (sold exclusively at Amazon)
Stone & Beam (another Amazon-sold brand)
This website must really want me to align with Adobe. I am an existing Adobe Cloud customer, and have the creative cloud app open constantly on my devices. Adobe ads included:
Adobe Summit B2B Marketing Convention (sign up call-to-action)
Adobe Creative Suite (membership sign up call-to-action)
An ad promoting shareable PDFs (which I have done extensively this semester, through Google Docs, as part of my capstone group project).
This week, I googled “Valentine’s Day ideas Madison, WI.” I would bet that search produced ads I saw for Elements Massage (Valentine’s Day gift card) and an ad for the Henry Vilas Zoo.
As an escape to the pandemic culture, I look at AirBnB properties frequently. It is like a digital escape, and I imagine places I would like to visit once things return to normal. On CDAN, I had a video display ad for VRBO vacation homes. I would not be surprised if this was targeted to Airbnb site visits.
Best Buy digital approach
Speaking at the Adobe 2019 Summit (Adobe is stalking me!), former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly said since 2012, the company began a comprehensive digital strategy blending customers, employees, and vendors (as cited in Maras, 2019). Best Buy’s inclusion of digital strategies included a customer app, enabling customers to compare prices (at home and in-store) and determine availability by location, and artificial intelligence that refined website searches (by analyzing and ranking words to predict consumer intent, behavior, and patterns (Maras, 2019; Metz, 2018; Knauff, 2017).
Best Buy's “On My Way” feature empowers customers to inform a store through a smartphone when they are picking up an order. Virtual reality helps customer visualize what an item will look like in their homes. Individual customers IDs create a targeting-rich functionality for the company and also support the in-house Geek Squad technical support with background information for service calls. Online customers can chat with an employee online or even buy software, games, or downloadable content directly from the website (Best Buy, n.d.).
Best Buy began working with Google Cloud to consolidate data sources into one legacy platform—a move that can personalize the shopping experience and “agnostically” meet customers in comfortable spaces (Gagliordi, 2020; Hautala, 2021, p. 2).
Joly said in the past, the company spent 70% of their advertising on analog, but now spending is ninety percent digital (as cited in Maras, 2019). Current CEO Corie Barry places an emphasis on membership services and online price matching to foster brand loyalty (Kumar, 2019). The strategy, coupled with pandemic-related retail concerns, seems to be paying off. In 2020, e-commerce sales rose 242% over fiscal year 2019, and 44% of items were picked up in-store (Loeb, 2020).
Finally, a big change in metrics has occurred. Whereas in the past, store managers measured conversion and customer purchase rates, they now assess number of households in a market, how many are customers, and determine if the store has an ongoing “relationship” (Maras, 2019, p. 27).
Digital marketing repositioned the retailer’s posture from box-store “showrooming” to creating an immersive customer experience (Cooper, 2019, 4). Of course, there is still consistency in branding (blue shirts), expert positioning (employees as consultants/advisors), and professionalism (Geek Squad members as corporate IT staff) (Cooper, 2019).
In a crowded retail market, where brands must constantly compete with Amazon, Best Buy added a digital makeover and consumer psychology to the old fashioned retail sales model—a move that is better for Best Buy.
Batra, A. (2018, June 10). 21 metrics for measuring online display advertising. Web Analysis.
Best Buy. (n.d.). Why buy digital? https://www.bestbuy.com/site/help-topics/how-it-works-digital-downloads/pcmcat248100050001.c?id=pcmcat248100050001
Bustillos, M. (2021, January 11). What internet cookies are and how they can help your business. Hostpapa.
Gagliordi, N. (2020, August 4). Best Buy taps Google Cloud in latest digital transformation play. ZDNet.
Hautala, L. (2021, January 12). Best Buy CEO: Pandemic made us ‘meet the customer where they are’. C|Net. https://www.cnet.com/news/best-buy-ceo-pandemic-made-us-meet-that-customer-where-they-are/
Knauff, J. (2017, February 16). I, Search: How AI will transform the landscape of SEO. Search Engine Journal.
Kumar, U.S. (2019, April 15). Best Buy replaces turnaround chief Joly with longtime CFO. Reuters.
Loeb, W. (2020, August 26). Best Buy successfully changed its strategy to lead in the pandemic. Forbes.
Maras, E. (2019, March 29). Best Buy CEO talks melding digital with physical for a winning retail strategy. Retail Customer Experience.
Metz, C. (2018, February 4). AI is transforming Google Search: The rest of the web is next. Wired. https://www.wired.com/2016/02/ai-is-changing-the-technology-behind-google-searches/