Best Buy is changing how it sells mobile smartphones both in-store and online under a project referred to internally as “Mobile 2020,” which began last year and will continue to roll out to more Best Buy stores in the next few months, according to a company blog post published Saturday.
Mobile departments inside stores are being revamped to include updated vendor and carrier experiences, and space dedicated to prepaid and unlocked phones. Those areas, which will be staffed by specially-trained store associates, will also have new menu boards "similar to those found at fast-food restaurants" to search for product information and promotions.
For online shoppers, new product display pages will allow them to select a device and easily view prices, colors, sizes, carriers, plans and upgrade eligibility, on one page, according to the company.
Best Buy said it pursued this revamp as a response to how confusing the smartphone landscape has become, and to help customers to more easily navigate its offerings. It's true that the market has become much more confusing, although ironically, many of the ways in which the market has changed were intended to benefit customers and give them greater flexibility to change providers, plans and devices without being held prisoner to expensive long-term contracts
Still, the proliferation of unlocked devices, prepaid services, unlimited data plans, flexible billing and payment options and more have created new challenges, which in turn means a lot of possible friction points in the smartphone purchasing process.
The smartphone market has also become fairly saturated, and is coming off of a year that marked a historic low point in the total number of phones shipped from suppliers (although Best Buy's smartphone sales numbers picked up toward the end of the year.) Overall, customers just don't seem to have the sense of urgency to buy new phones the way they once did.
While Best Buy is doing this for the good of its customers, it's also trying to give itself a boost. The new in-store experiences could help, as they sound a bit like what Best Buys customers have come to expect from the store-within-a-store concept the retailer has experimented with in the last couple years.
Best Buy continues to perform better than many other retailers, having last week reported modest first quarter sales growth, solidly beating analyst expectations. Still, some analysts say sales of smartphones and other consumer electronics continue to be a weak spot. Maybe a broad overhaul to how Best Buy sells those devices can be the difference-maker.