Sheridan Orr

Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Fifty Shades of Frustration: Why Women Hate Best Buy

In Customer Experience, Retail, Uncategorized on June 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Women retain cortisol longer than men so this visual cacophony could have longer lasting effects.

It is the Saturday before Father’s Day and I’m sitting at the Cold Stone Creamery with my son.  That’s when I notice something strange—even eerie.  Women are rushing into all of the other stores, but avoiding Best Buy, which is directly across from us.

Men typically like gadgets and electronics.  Therefore, Best Buy should be an ideal place to shop for Father’s Day.  However, it is as if there is estrogen repellant wafting from their doors.  I point this out to my son and terror spreads across his face.

I’m curious and can’t stop myself—no matter how much my son begs, pleads, or threatens to run away.  I explain to him that this is the scientific method in action.  I’ve noticed something odd and I want to understand it.

Doing my best imitation of my high school science teacher, I explain that there is no alternative but for me to begin peppering the women who bypass Best Buy with questions.  Would Newton have stopped?  No.  Would Einstein have stopped?  Of course not.  Nor shall I. Now, I’m not only lame and boring, I’m so embarrassing that he ducks into the Five Below and tells me to text him when I’m done.

The Research

I fish out my notepad and start asking women “Are you shopping for Father’s Day?”  Of the eight women I accosted, all but one said they were.   “Does your dad or husband like electronics, music or movies?”  There I got a 100% response—minus the lady who walked away.  I’m not ashamed. I’m fully willing to be shunned by society in pursuit of science.   Mrs. Trent would be proud.

As I get to the heart of the matter, “So if you dad or husband likes what Best Buy sells and you are out shopping for him, why not go in there?” I poise my pen over paper, like Darwin on The Beagle and wait to be illuminated.  Of the seven women I didn’t scare off, they simply say, “I hate Best Buy.”

It is only by assuring them that I’m just a curious woman who writes blogs about retail that they went further. Plus, I’m on crutches so pity is working in my favor or perhaps they think I’ve had too much pain medicine. Anyway, I see my son peek out of the store and cower in shame.

When asked why they dislike Best Buy, the complaints fell into the following categories:

  • Visual assault
  • Lack of context
    • -Products themselves
    • -Products in usage
    • Lack of Connection
    • Associate allocation
    • Logistics
    • Policies

Noticing that I’m finished stalking innocent shoppers, my son tentatively emerges.  I say, “We are going to Best Buy.”

From the look on his face, I know that he is fully aware of what is coming next.  I bribe him with, “You can get a game.”  It still isn’t enough to be seen with me. Once more he retreats to the safety of the Five Below.

The Experiment

 I have to admit my bias as I go into Best Buy.  I’m a bit of a gadget geek.  Therefore, I vow to shop like a neophyte.  Strolling around the store, I search out evidence to disprove the women who are now hopefully enjoying their ice cream.

Visual Assault

I’m sure that the promos they show on the bank of TV’s look great when the agency is presenting them to executives or the vendor sends it to Best Buy.

However, the whirling, swirling, movement that makes content engaging on one screen is nauseating on 50.  Not to mention, there is different content on many of the screens.  It is mind numbing to the point that I can’t focus on the individual products themselves.   I study six TV specs in that environment and then I am mentally exhausted.

Another complaint was over the lighting.  I frequently hear this about warehouse stores.  There is a constant flicker because they swing and the types of bulbs. This is already annoying but in the visual cacophony that is Best Buy it makes you wish for a Dramamine.

Lack of Context

The women I spoke with complained that they didn’t know what to buy because they didn’t know which products met their needs.   I mean do I really need a DSLR camera or would a lower level be ok for taking pictures of my dog?  Or should I get my husband a plasma or LED TV?  Even once they knew in which category they should shop, it is hard to decide if 14 megapixels is enough.  Or whether they should wait for OLED to become ubiquitous.

You can’t read the information on the placards nor is there anything that might indicate which camera is best for your purposes.

Moreover, I looked at the spec sheets in the camera section.  I have been researching DSLR cameras for a year now.  Not only could I not read the specs of the cameras because the print was so small, the information I wanted to know wasn’t even on the card.


How would you know if this were the right camera for you?

Associate Allocation

There were more people charged with keeping me from stealing than to help me.  The Best Buy reality is that people come in and look at products on the shelves, whip out their phones and search for a better price.

I figured with the ‘showrooming’ trend that I’d be swarmed when I started snapping pictures. However, only one guy asked, “Can I help you?”  I respond, “I’m not sure which camera to get my Dad.  I need to do some research.”

While he was courteous, he didn’t ask me what type of pictures my father takes.  He didn’t say “Is this for Father’s Day?”  He didn’t ask me if I need anything else—remember I’m on crutches.  He seemed almost eager to go off to some other task rather than interact with me.  Maybe he’d heard that I’m a nutter from the women I spoke to earlier or possibly my son has posted it to Facebook by now.

I guess I should commend this guy because I was ignored when I entered and exited the store by the four people congregating around the ‘greet and show me your receipt’ stand. Otherwise no one else ventured to help me at all.


I needed some new computer speakers because of my recent Spotify addiction.  Therefore, I used this opportunity to shop for them.  I knew what I wanted, but I was enjoying my method acting experiment.  I waited patiently in the computer speaker section— 6 minutes.  I finally read all of the placards on each set of speakers.  I took more pictures. Still no associate.

Finally, I make my selection.  The box is large and I’m hobbling toward check out.  Again, of the four people at podium in the front, not one offers to help.  I think about the women I have interviewed-the one with the small kids, the really petite woman and the older lady.  I’d hate Best Buy too if I were not the impartial scientist limping toward the parking lot.


I could not test this in this experiment.  However, two of the women told horror stories about trying to return things to Best Buy that either didn’t work or were the wrong thing.  I think they only talked to me for the free ice cream and the opportunity to rant about this.

The Results

Here is the ironic thing, I chose Insignia speakers—Best Buy’s own brand.  I’ve bought them before because they sound good and the price point is low enough that I can rock out to my 80s play list on Spotify in any room in my house. Suddenly, I’m panicked that Best Buy will screw up so badly that I’m not going to have access to this brand.

I can’t help but think that the women I spoke with have a point.  Best Buy IS a difficult place to shop—not just for women.


If Best Buy wants to win with women, they are going to have to rethink their in-store experience—seriously.  There is no reason that promos have to look like they came from the X Games.  Moreover, cortisol stays in a woman’s body longer than a man’s.  Anything that induces stress will have a longer impact.  Also, women also have a bigger hippocampus, which means they have a greater memory of how things made them feel.  If a retailer irritates a woman, the effects of that can be long lasting.

Also, studies have show that showing emotion in marketing materials can have more effect on women.  Some of those promotions should have images that women can relate to if they want to sell to them.  I understand that Best Buy is frequently beholden to the vendors in how they display products.  However, they ultimately share the same customer.  Why not do what is best for them?  I’m guessing they have no desire to alienate a large portion of the population.


Women don’t want to buy a pink hair brush at Best Buy. Instead, they want to know which products are right for them.

The only evidence I could find in the store that Best Buy had thought about women as consumers was one very pink aisle.  Even though I’m fond of pink, I’m not sure that I’d go to Best Buy to purchase a hairbrush.  Instead of making a Hello Kitty aisle, how about trying to make it easier for us to buy a TV or camera?

Amazon is making it impossible for Best Buy to compete on price alone.  They have to face the fact that they are in a commodity game.  The only way they can differentiate is to create superior shopping experience.  That means making it fun, informative and establishing their associates as experts on electronics and media.

Best Buy will have to find innovative way to do guided selling at the shelf level.  If their associates need tablets to be informed, I’d think they’d know where to get a good deal on them.  How hard is it to create a color-coded system that categorizes the cameras into beginner, intermediate, expert, and finally Ansel Adams?  How difficult is it to set up a family room in the store that shows how all the products work together?

If Best Buy isn’t going to make it easier for shoppers to get the right thing and then establish Draconian policies about returns, they will find themselves with more and more store closings.  Plus, I’ve never seen a retailer thrive by focusing more on protecting themselves from their customers than serving them.

Retailers who want to thrive need to start thinking about how not to alienate their customers.  This isn’t just about targeting women, but making it easier for shoppers as a whole.  That means:

  • Creating an environment that is less jarring
  • Broadening appeal to women in content and context
  • Empowering associates with information
  • Abandoning a philosophy of protecting themselves from the customer rather than serving them
  • Eschewing the vendor-dictated model that isn’t working for anyone.

Four Hot Retail Trends Made Better by Customer Self-Service

In Customer Experience, Retail, Self-Service on June 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

Even iconic Liberty is setting up a temporary location to attract Olympic visitors

London is buzzing this summer.  People flocked to the city for the Diamond Jubilee. While it captivated the world’s attention, it was just a warm up for the Olympics.   As athletes and devoted fans from around the globe descend on the city, retails are getting prepared.  Therefore, you can see some of the hottest trends in retail on steroids.  Four in particular are made better by incorporating self-service or kiosks.  They are:

  • Pop Up Locations
  • Smaller Footprint Stores
  • Millenials
  • International Shoppers


 London real estate was already at a premium.  However, the massive influx of people this summer has made that even more pronounced—especially in locations surrounding the Olympic venues.  Therefore, retailers are getting creative with pop-up locations.  Even Liberty, the famed British department store has taken a temporary space in an outdoor area on the main promenade where Olympic revelers will pass en route to the park.

Trendy retailer H&M is opening a sports-focused store that will feature active wear in Union Jack colors.  These stores will be open for ten weeks in Covent Garden and Westfield Stratford City.  It isn’t just London that is seeing this trend, H&M is opening a pop up location in Miami Beach this summer.

The value of pop ups is being recognized by other entities beyond retailers.  EBay created several pop up locations.  Wired Magazine erects an electronics pop up in New York at Christmas every year .  Even the Flaming Lips have puckered up to the pop up trend .

Retail expert, Brian Walker from The Retail Doctor told Smart Company, “Pop-up shops give you instant accessibility, instant wow factor if done well, and put you in environments that you might not be otherwise.” He continues,  “A pop-up shop is an extension of the brand and should be treated that way – so investment of capital is key.”

Pop ups allow retailers, websites, magazines and even bands to capitalize on compelling events and locations as well as keep their brand top of mind.  Because of their temporary nature and space constraints, pop ups typically have limited selection.  By introducing self-service, kiosks or tablets, pop ups could be nimble as well as offer a broader range of items.

These locations are ideal for endless aisle types of applications.  Moreover, shoppers heading to the Olympic park or to South Beach may not want to be burdened with parcels.  A kiosk would allow visitors to purchase from the extended offerings as well as have items delivered at their convenience.


 Even after the Olympics, London real estate will be at a premium.  For brands and retailers interested in a more permanent spot in highly desirable locations, the smaller footprint store has become a mainstay.  Over the past few years, giant retailers have responded to changing consumer behaviors and adopted a more focused approach. Smaller footprint stores are ideal for urban locations and create a more European shopping model where consumers visit the stores daily—which is ideal for brand engagement.

Target created stores that were almost half the size of their traditional stores (60,000 sqft vs 120,000) for their urban locations.  Walmart Express was born to allow the retail giant to fit into this new reality.  In addition, stores like Kohl’s and Office Depot are embracing this trend and getting away from the mega store to broaden their appeal.

Like pop up locations, these smaller footprint stores are unable to carry the full product portfolio. Not to mention, have you ever tried to wheel your newly purchased office chair through the streets of Seattle?

The limited space and the realities of urban living make these locations ideal for kiosks, which can expand product and delivery options.  In addition, these stores don’t have room for support staff.  Retailers could take advantage of hiring kiosks to off load many of the human resource tasks.  This would ensure that associates focused primarily on the customer.


 Millenials are not only the athletes in this year’s Olympics they are a large percentage of those who will be drawn to the games. In a previous blog, I wrote about how self-service and Millenials are an ideal match.

Millenials will outspend Baby Boomers by 2017; however, they also currently punch above their weight.  That means they spend more than their actual purchasing power.  In addition, they shop in an entirely different way than their parents—who they trust less than random people online.

To meet the demands of this generation, retailers need to ensure that reviews are easily accessible.  Kiosk or shelf level tablets would be ideal to help these informed consumers complete purchases.  Because they are wired all the time, they are great researches and users of technology.   You don’t want to put your associates in a position where a customer pulls out their phone to show them they are wrong about their own products or specials—which could instantly derail a purchase and mar your brand.

According to a RSR paper, The Retail Store in Transition, an uninformed associate is worse than no associate.  Moreover, most Millenials don’t even want to bother talking to an associate.  They’d rather interact with an avatar or something ‘less human’.

Retailers can appeal to this demographic by ensuring peer reviews are available through out the store, providing easy access to information in a visually appealing way and empowering associates with technology to further the conversation.

Self-service and kiosks are ideal for this.  However, be aware that this is the Apple Generation and it has to be sleek, elegant and modern.  Any boxy, clunky things that are not graphically appealing or don’t work on the first try will be quickly abandoned and Tweeted about, Facebooked and Pinned under #fail.


 When I was growing up, Italian food was considered exotic.  Now, even in my small suburban town, I can eat at 30 different ethnic style restaurants and encounter six different languages on any given day.  This diversity is changing the shopping landscape.  Every four years we are reminded of how diverse our world is with the Olympics.  Can you imagine being an associate at the H&M location in Covent Garden trying to articulate the merits of products to people from every country on the planet?

Self-service and kiosk can make life easier for both the associate and the shopper by providing information in multiple languages.  This trend isn’t just for retail, but healthcare, public spaces like airports and public transit as well as universities.  Providing information in multiple languages in a single location is simple with a kiosk whether it is products, services, frequently asked questions, timetables or way finding assistance.


With summer heating up and the biggest shopping days ahead of us, retailers should consider how they are going to make these trends even better shopper experiences.  Self-service can make small spaces have big impact by expanding offerings.  It can help limited staff meet growing demand by offloading administrative tasks such as managing job applications.  In addition, it can bring the viral, social shopping experience into the store by incorporating reviews and rankings.  Finally, it can create a personalized experience no matter which language you speak.


%d bloggers like this: