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best buyIt would make perfect sense for some big box retailers to curl up, lick, their wounds from the devastation of the 2008 holiday season, and plan for the next move. After all, reports Retail Forward today, anything that resembles improvement at retail will wait until the fourth quarter of this year.

It would also make perfect sense to take this opportunity to step it up online. The good questions to ask would regard web site experience, email marketing, customer engagement via social networks, and online marketing plans for the fall. But what we see lately is a focus on public relations, a lot of spending on in-store technology, and mobile commerce.

Mobile marketing makes sense for the short-term and long-term. But check two of the biggest of the big boxes and their focus, and go figure. WalMart is so far ahead of the sales pack that it could do anything to strengthen its position and engage more with its customers, many of which only became fans since the economy tanked. And Best Buy, which is in the envious position of losing its biggest competitor (Circuit City), is in good shape to go after its biggest new competitor, WalMart.

What we see here is WalMart doubling up on its PR effort. It should be Tweeting and Facebooking all over the internet to do that, but it's not there. Press releases about small bonuses for its salaried employees, yes. Social media efforts, no. Best Buy makes less sense. A report today says that it is ready to go after WalMart in stores. It will invest heavily in digital signage and interactive in-store displays to improve the customer experience. Its web site hasn't changed to reflect this strategy, however. And like WalMart, you won't find them on Twitter or Facebook.

The retail industry is focused on in-store technology because the retail industry wants the in-store experience to be more like the internet. It wants sales associates to have handhelds that can check inventory and comparer prices. It will have clienteling solutions that will match wardrobes, and recommend follow-up products. The in-store experience may one day get close to the internet. But ecommerce and internet user experience will be the battleground that counts. The strategy of ignoring the internet has never worked for any retailer. Never.

Update: It has been rightly pointed out to us that Best Buy is in fact engaged with social media on a number of fronts (see Gina's comment below, and associated bad noise on Twitter). We hold up our hands and say that we got this one wrong. We had previously listed Best Buy as a US retailer that used Twitter, so it was an oversight, as much as anything. We aim to find out more about how Best Buy uses social media.


Published 23 March, 2009 by John Gaffney

John Gaffney is US Editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter

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Comments (12)

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Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

That's a pretty comprehensive riposte Gina, and in good time too!


about 8 years ago



Thanks, social media presents many exciting opportunities.  Gina

about 8 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

Hi Gina

An impressive response indeed! Good for you. I think you guys also do some interesting stuff in using online-generated user feedback and reviews in *offline* marketing, signage and so on (e.g. catalogues, DM, ads)? I'm sure I've seen BazaarVoice case studies with you in them?

So, given you seem to be doing some pretty interesting things... Maybe you'd consider doing an interview for our newsletter? Or even speaking at one of our events about what you've learnt?

about 8 years ago


John Gaffney, US Editor at Econsultancy


I wrote the blog post as a poke at focusing (at least publicly) on offline tactics, when the opportunity is online. I neglected to do a proper Facebook and Twitter search. My sincere apologies. No very professional and certainly not the way I want to start a relationship with your company.

about 8 years ago



I always love reading articles from self-labeled e- "experts" going off on how others are using technology that they fail to use themselves. There is a link to the author's Twitter feed at the bottom of the article--this "expert" has been using Twitter all of a month, and has a whopping 14 tweets.  I'd be willing to bet both Wal-Mart and Best Buy have hundreds of employees each using Twitter for a longer period and more frequently. But, don't let that get in the way of a good diatribe!

about 8 years ago


Kevin Matheny

Just to throw in a few more of the things we are doing:

Best Buy Remix is the aforementioned open API, available at http://remix.bestbuy.com. One of the sample applications is a Facebook app.

Our CMO, Barry Judge, is on Twitter as @bestbuyCMO and blogs at http://www.barryjudge.com.

We've used social technologies internally for some time now, and gotten a fair amount of coverage for Blue Shirt Nation. The guys behind that initiative are Gary Koelling (http://www.garykoelling.com) and Steve Bendt (http://www.stevebendt.com).

And we aggregate employee blogging and Twittering at a site called Connect, at http://www.bestbuyinc.com/connect.

And it looks like you didnt just neglect a Facebook and Twitter search, John, you didn't do much searching at all. The first result of a Google search for "best buy social media" is this page, mirroring a video of our CEO speaking at Google Zeitgeist about "company as Wiki" and our use of social media: http://www.socialmediatoday.com/SMC/56944.

- Kevin

about 8 years ago


Oren Michels

Ashley - no sense in piling on...I am familiar with e-consultancy's excellent work (having had the privilege of speaking at your events...with Brett Hurt from Bazaarvoice). But speaking as someone who has also had the privilege of a front-row seat to watch and participate in Best Buy's broad program of emerging channels, I can say that after launching dozens of APIs for companies large and small, the Best Buy team is truly dedicated to opening the company and embracing social media. I find several of their execs are way easier to reach through a twitter DM than through email. And they had a substantial contingent representing several different teams on hand at South by Southwest last week - where they were also the diamond sponsor of our Circus Mashimus lounge. 

We at Mashery love working with Best Buy, and look forward to being a catalyst for a lot of great innovation.

Oren Michels, CEO, Mashery

about 8 years ago

Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens, Social Customer Care Consultant at IBM Interactive Experience/GBS/MobileEnterprise

I work at Carphone Warehouse, where we're partnering with Best Buy in the UK. We are very much at the start of our social media journey with a couple of twitter accounts (@carphoneware, @guy1067) and Facebooks pages (one with competitions, the other offering mobile phone help tips and general support), we're also doing a bit on some customer feedback sites such as complaintcommunity.com. We are certainly not as advanced as Best Buy, but they certainly give us something to aspire to in the social media arena. My aim here is not to wade into that argument, but rather to raise the observation that we have reached a fantastic point in the development of the web: the right to voice an opinion and, the right of reply. Even better, an acknowledgement when we're wrong. Is this the sign of a maturing industry?

about 8 years ago



Are you kidding me?  Please do your research about Best buy at Sxsw and their activities with their api and socia media.  You would redeem yourself if you wrote a story about how they are actively doing this.

about 8 years ago


Lucretia Pruitt

What we see here is WalMart doubling up on its PR effort. It should be Tweeting and Facebooking all over the internet to do that, but it's not there. Press releases about small bonuses for its salaried employees, yes. Social media efforts, no.

Apparently, you're not looking terribly hard.  As one of Walmart's ElevenMoms, I can tell you that they've been actively engaging in Social Media for quite some time now.

Are they blasting the Walmart name all over things and unauthentically entering the space by hiring someone at $10/hr to monitor a Facebook and Twitter account that is nothing but a linkbot or a fan page? No.  They turned to those already defining the Social Media space to actually engage their customers - Mom Bloggers.

The Walmart ElevenMoms program dates back to July of 2008 - try checking out http://www.elevenmoms.com - and was originally formed as a community to help other moms live Walmart's motto "Save Money, Live Better" thru the efforts of moms who are already doing just that.

As someone who has been working in and studying the Social Media Marketing space for quite some time now, I'd posit that you missed the mark entirely.  Social Media isn't about one-time sales or link spamming - it's about creating a long-term, engaged relationship with your suppliers and your customers.  Is Walmart engaged in Social Media? You better believe it.  But in the RIGHT way - not in the "oh look! We have a Facebook page!" way.

The tools are just that - TOOLS.  The tools do not define the strategy, but rather the obverse.  Walmart's strategy in Social Media engaqement  is to create a two-way conversation with their customers.  Thanks to the leadership of John Andrews, Walmart's Sr. Manager of Emerging Media - and the efforts of many folks at Walmart as well as many Moms already engaged in the Social Media space - Walmart is generating a case study that will be the long term standard for how retailers *should* enter the space.

But then, you only have to Google 'Walmart Social Media' to see the impact they've had in that arena in the past year.  A much better resource than the hate-filled "Wake-up Wal-Mart Blog" - with an agenda that ignores anything positive they are doing in the space.

I'm sorry you didn't do that before writing the article and linking to that bastion of anger and misinformation.

If you'd like actual information on how Walmart has engaged the Social Media community? I'd be happy to assist you further.  As someone who works *with* them, and not *for* them, I'm not speaking in any official capacity - but simply in the capacity of someone who is intimately familiar with how amazing their efforts have been.

LMP (aka @geekmommy)

about 8 years ago



I'm surprised nobody's mentioned correcting the title for this post ... if I only have time to skim the headlines, I'm going to get the wrong message.

about 8 years ago



If this was traditional print media this complete lack of journalistic due diligence and ethics would result in a law suit. I agree completely with the previous comment in that the damage done here in RSS readers, email digests and search engines really warrants a lot more than a tiny update at the bottom of the post with not even a mention of an apology.

about 8 years ago

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