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Best Buy takes third place: 2010 Mobile Retailer of the Year

Best Buy has taken third place in the 2010 Mobile Retailer of the Year awards due to its all-round excellence in mobile marketing and commerce, offering a strategy that is worthy of emulation.

There were many worthy candidates, but based on the nominations received from readers and submissions from this publication’s editorial team, Mobile Commerce Daily is convinced that Best Buy serves as a role model for retailers and merchants for its outstanding use of mobile.

“As a retailer we  see a lot of benefits from getting a lot of more open, trusted information into customers’ hands by letting them use a mobile phone to get access to customer reviews and ratings from people like themselves,” said Ben Hedrington, director of mobile and Web strategy for emerging platforms at Best Buy, Minneapolis. “We want to reinvent ourselves as a connected retailer, offering the best of the Web and upgradiing our store by using these digital platforms and mobile apps—that is a priority.

“We’re not just focused on phones, but also tablets and connected TVs, and we think about all of these connected devices in the same breath as mobile,” he said. “We’re thinking about it more in terms of portability in general, rather than just the mobile phone.

“We’re definitely looking at impressive growth in mobile.”

Mobile fitting into a multichannel strategy
Best Buy has been looking at unlocking the different assets of its brand, letting consumers take a deeper look into its catalog by making product information, customers reviews and ratings available via mobile.

In addition, Best Buy enabled in-store pickup for mobile orders, because lots of consumers were demanding that.

The retailer has also been increasing its SMS initiatives, which it has been running for some time to build up its opted-in database of consumers.

Best Buy has made its weekly circular interactive by incorporating mobile calls-to-action into some of the pages.

The mobile elements that are added into the pages, including 2D bar codes and SMS calls-to-action, are meant to give consumers further engagement – the kind they cannot possibly get by looking at a static circular.

Mobile gives legs to print advertising, making it work harder for the advertiser.

Best Buy has also included 2D bar codes in store to enhance its bricks-and-mortar shopping experience.

“In August we deployed mobile scannable QR codes across our entire chain—1,000-plus stores—Best Buy tags letting you connect into our Best Buy mobile experience while you’re standing in the aisles,” Mr. Hedrington said.

“Already hundreds of thousands of codes have been scanned, and we’ve also added mobile bar codes to our weekly ads and in-store signage, which lets customers get increased multimedia information, but also benefits Best Buy and its vendors,” he said.

2D bar codes can direct consumers to videos, the mobile Web and other content, helping static ads come to life.

“The new holiday list feature of our apps lets you scan multiple QR codes to create product lists that can be shared, which is a pretty big feature from both an employee and a customer perspective,” Mr. Hedrington said. “We’re playing with integration across channels to make sure that whatever holiday deals Best Buy has are right there in the palm of your hand.”

The e-tailing group recently classified Best Buy’s mobile Web site as best-in-class due to its ease of use, meaningful retail locators, inventory-sensitive store product locators, relevant search functionality, snafu-free checkouts and ease of contacting customer service.

“In the past before mobile existed, Best Buy was a 10-minute drive away, but right now it’s as quick as just picking up your phone and seeing what we have,” Mr. Hedrington said. “Best Buy is going to support a good number of our deals and promotions on these mobile vehicles as well, and we think this is a great opportunity.”

Mobile shopping
In September, Best Buy and Fuse Capital unveiled the Tecca personal electronics shopping and information service that is available via smartphone applications, the mobile Web and tablets.

The Tecca mobile application is available today via the Apple App Store and the Google Android Market, as well as via the mobile Web.

Best Buy does not rest on its laurels—it likes to push the envelope in the mobile space.

The retailer has run location-based retail experiments that examine the way in-store shoppers redeem offers and rewards via their mobile device, with time-sensitive offers distributed via the shopkick iPhone application.

The experiment took place in 257 United States stores.

“Our group talks about showing up where customers are, with digital and mobile and the Web, and that’s becoming a pretty important part of the Best Buy experience,” said Michele Azar, vice president of emerging platforms at Best Buy. “We’re seeing that trend accelerate.

“Think of the best of Best Buy anywhere, a portability play across mobile phones, tablets, connected TVs, etcetera,” she said. “We expect the growth of mobile to continue, but we see it as even beyond mobile.”

Best Buy sees six key trends in the mobile space: increased smartphone sales and usage; dramatic increase in mobile Web usage; mobile commerce adoption grows; mobile search becomes essential; multichannel marketing mix expands; and market fragmentation continues (see story).

“We’re seeing hundreds of percent increase year-over-year in mobile, and that’s not letting up,” Ms. Azar said. “It is accelerating with hockey-stick growth—we met our 2009 mobile revenue totals in August of this year.

“We’ve had 1.2 million combined downloads of the Best Buy app between iPhone and Android,” she said. “Customers are showing up in mobile and using their handsets to bridge the digital and physical worlds.

“Mobile is convenient and always available to consumers.”

Final Take
Dan Butcher, associate editor, Mobile Commerce Daily