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How Best Buy Canada Pivoted Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic [Interview]

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Electronics retail giant Best Buy Canada continues to pivot, innovate and adapt to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic to better reach consumers in the marketplace.

Headshot of Mat Povse  from Best Buy Canada
Mat Povse. Photo: LinkedIn

Mat Povse, Senior Vice President for Best Buy Retail, Geek Squad Services and Best Buy Canada for Business, said the pandemic created an immediate shift in terms of the retailer’s primary objective which was first and foremost providing customers with options to shop how and when they want.

The safety of customers and employees was paramount and it has driven every decision by the company all year long.

“We’re in constant consultation with our team members and our customers. We use surveys and consumer insights to make sure we’re on the ball and people are feeling good,” said Povse.

“The first thing we do is make the consumer aware that there are multiple ways to shop with us and get the things that they need. Specific to the store, all year long we’ve iterated our operating model from almost full closures in some provinces to what we’re calling a fully open store but we’re limiting the amount of customers who get to come in to make sure we have the social distancing. The stores are constantly cleaned and we’ve got the mask policies in place and the protocols you would expect around retail in general.

“We’ve done a few other things as well. For those that still want to come to the store, we’ve introduced ways to grab that product. So we were the first retailer in Canada to offer a reserve and pickup process which is way before COVID. We’ve iterated that way of shopping with us so that you can now come to the store but you don’t even have to get out of your car. We’re working on curbside pickup. We’ve iterated on the reserve and pickup process to make it faster so customers can get in and get out and we can let more customers in and do it in a safe way.”

Interior of a Best Buy Canada Store
INTERIOR OF A BEST BUY STORE. PHOTO: BEST BUY

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BEST BUY CANADA RE-ENGINEERED STORES AMID COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Povse said the company has re-engineered and re-floored the Best Buy Canada store to make sure that where people stand in lines and how they are served are different than it used to be.

“We’re very clear on how customers walk into our stores. If you come in to pick up a product versus coming in to walk around and shop the store, we acknowledge that before you enter the store and we manage the lineups that way as well,” he said.

Some sectors of the retail industry have done well through the pandemic such as essential services around grocery stores and drug stores.

Even electronics. With more people working remotely and spending time in their homes, it has become natural that electronic products are more popular today to help people in their work and their leisure.

INTERIOR OF A BEST BUY STORE
INTERIOR OF A BEST BUY STORE. PHOTO: BEST BUY

ECOMMERCE HAS BECOME MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER FOR BEST BUY

Ecommerce has also become an important and critical process for any retailer today. And an area where innovation is constantly top of mind to meet a growing demand.

“We continue to innovate what we serve up in ecommerce,” said Povse. “Now you can go online pre-pay for your purchase, go to the store and pick it up. You can certainly have your products shipped to home.

“But you can do other things now you couldn’t do before such as go online, research products and then you click the chat with one of our employees virtually online and you can ask and have answered all the questions you would normally do inside a store.

“We started the early stages of online phone activations which is brand new for us as well and the list goes on. The traditional way of getting your phone is you generally have to go to a store. Bricks and mortar location. Talk to an associate. Provide your information. Start to pick your plan and your phone. We started the early stages where customers can actually go and front load that activation process online making it a lot easier and faster when they do get to the store to pick up their phone. That’s the early stages of what we’re calling online phone activations.”

Screenshot of a Best Buy Website product page
SCREENSHOT OF BEST BUY WEBSITE

The busy selling time of the year is upon us with Black Friday just around the corner and Christmas and Boxing Day not far behind. It will be a different experience for retailers this year. One filled with anxiety to see how the consumer reacts during this pandemic.

“The best thing we can do is to create an ability for customers to shop how they want and when they want. So rather than congesting all of our hot offers and promotions and prices and inventory around one single day of the year we started earlier than ever and our offers are now released to the public,” said Povse.

“We’ve launched a ton of deals which have been released early (before Black Friday). There’s really no distinguishing offers you would get on a Black Friday versus deals available now.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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