- Best Buy unveiled a new program called Ignite, dedicating space in stores for products and services from startups. The electronics retailer is also supporting startups' product development and manufacturing efforts through a partnership with PCH, a product innovation company that works closely with emerging businesses.
A new Best Buy store in Mountain View, CA already features an Ignite space with products from the program, including a selection of crowdfunded gadgets from companies such as Tangram, Flic, RoBo and others.
The retailer also is planning to unveil later this fall a new Ignite page on BestBuy.com to allow consumers to browse, learn about and shop for new products from startups, including some of those already featured at the new Silicon Valley store.
With Ignite, Best Buy is firing a shot across the e-commerce bow of Amazon from its brick-and-mortar battleship. Amazon launched Launchpad to showcase products from startups, and has recently been forging co-marketing partnerships aimed at boosting Launchpad's profile. Now, Best Buy is set to show the e-retailer that two can play at that game.
But that is not all that is going on here. Best Buy, like other brick-and-mortar retailers such as Macy's, has been busy building up stores-within-stores: The Intel Experience store featuring Best Buy's in-store demonstrations of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is one example. The company also rolled out many Samsung Experience in-store spaces, though its recent decision to eliminate some of the Samsung stores-within-stores while expanding others is proof that Best Buy and other retailers are still tweaking this concept and trying to figure out what works best.
The stores-within-stores may be helping Best Buy's bottom line to some degree, though the Ignite program puts a different spin on that concept, while also requiring a broader and different kind of commitment from Best Buy. Unlike existing stores-within-stores featuring products from very big-name brands, the dedicated in-store spaces for Ignite may feature some up-and-coming brands that still could be largely unknown to consumers.
That means Best Buy won't necessarily benefit from the natural marketing power of a star gadget company like Samsung as it tries to lure traffic to the Ignite initiative. It will face the challenge of getting customers interested in brands and products they may have heard little about, but that challenge also could be an opportunity. Best Buy can become the retailer that helps customers discover cool, new gadgets and other products.
The partnership with PCH shows that Best Buy may understand both the challenge and the opportunity, as it is setting up the Ignite startups with professional help to design and produce their products with an eye toward making them items that Best Buy customers will come to demand.