Best Buy is bringing new Amazon Echo and Google Home displays to about 700 of its stores beginning in July. The new displays will show off how the devices integrate with smart home products such as Philips Hue smart light bulbs and Nest thermostats, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Best Buy employees will staff the new displays, which will be smaller than the store-within-a-store spaces the retailer has created with Apple, Samsung, Sony and other brands.
In separate news, Amazon has launched a new feature supported in all of its Echo devices allowing them to act as a connected intercom system in a household setting, Engadget reports. The capability was hinted at in March, when speculation was rampant about the new voice calling features likely to emerge in Echo devices.
The brand in the spotlight here is not Amazon or Google, but Best Buy, which recently has shown that it wants to become a dominant retailer of smart home products — and is willing to support and partner up with many of the big names in the space to achieve that standing.
Just last month, Best Buy partnered with smart home product company Vivint for Vivint-staffed displays in about 400 of its stores. In this case, no Amazon or Google folks will be staffing the new displays, and the Star Tribune report suggests that shoppers will only be able to test applications related to showing how smart home applications work.
Best Buy is smart to give Amazon and Google devices with virtual assistant technology a higher profile within its stores. These are the devices which increasingly will drive smart home architectures and applications. For example, Vivint's system integrates with both Alexa and Google Home. Furthermore, more than 35 million Americans are expected to use a virtual assistant at least once a month this year, according to eMarketer research. Amazon Echo and Google Home are expected together to account for more than 90% of virtual assistant users (more than 70% of that being via Echo.)
This move gives Best Buy its best chance yet to show the average consumer starting from scratch how to assemble and manage a smart home. The new displays give consumers a chance to see the functions up close and personal, and to walk out of Best Buy with smart devices in hand. That's a fundamental value of its brick-and-mortar store presence.