Don't be a digital underdog -- it's omnichannel or bust

In the Searchlight: what CIOs can learn from Best Buy's omnichannel turnaround. Plus, corporate social media done right, big data in HR and more.

Everybody loves an underdog. Don't be an underdog. Sure, folks are rooting for your success, but coming from behind is never easy -- especially if you were once on top. Really, given your druthers would you choose to be the scrappy little guy?

Karen GoulartKaren Goulart

Best Buy certainly didn't and unfortunately spent a good long while figuring out how it could've happened. Fifteen years ago, it would seem absurd to refer to the big blue box store as anything but a Goliath in a world of electronics and entertainment retail, leaving mom-and-pop stores in its wake. Then, along came Amazon. It seemed a sure thing that Best Buy would go the way of its rivals, another victim of Bezos-style digital disruption. Then, with its last breath, it took an all-or-nothing shot at an omnichannel approach.

In this week's top Searchlight item, MIT Technology Review writer Michael Fitzgerald laid out how Best Buy is battling back by reaching customers everywhere they are, even turning "costly physical stores into an advantage."

The omnichannel approach looks at the customer experience through the eyes of the customer to provide a fully seamless experience. As John Bowden, senior vice president at Time Warner Cable, put it in an interview with the blog MyCustomer, omnichannel "anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution." Ensuring that these complex "handoffs" between channels are fluid for the customer is a must. "Simply put, omnichannel is multichannel done right," he said.

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According to the Fitzgerald piece, Best Buy is a great mistake to learn from. The company's failure to predict the Amazon era wasn't its Achilles heel -- few understood the force the online bookseller would become. Where it failed was in dragging its feet. As digital and mobile kept its rapid pace, Best Buy trod its same old path. It's amazing its game of catch-up might be working.

Every CIO should take note of in the retailer's quest to stay ahead. It's the age of the customer, as the analysts are fond of saying, only this time it's also the digital age -- and they're joined at the touch screen. You want the customers? You need to get them where they are, and where they are is everywhere. You'd best be too.

  • Jokingly referred to as Amazon's electronics showroom, Best Buy appears to be waging an omnichannel comeback. Barnes and Noble, take note.
  • The next trend in e-reading could be Netflix-style streaming. Sweet, I knew if waited long enough I could binge-read the Harry Potter series! #nospoilersplease
  • Enterprise performance expert Bernard Marr blogs about how big data is changing people management. One example? Reading employee emails and social media posts in lieu of administering those dreaded staff surveys. Um, yeah, I'll take the survey, thanks.
  • In need of inspiration on innovative use of social media? Look up -- KLM has a real gift for it.
  • So long, George Costanza wallet. Coin is for real, and it's spectacular -- or so the tens of thousands of folks who pre-ordered the digital all-cards-in-one device are hoping.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation just updated its "Encrypt the Web: Who's Doing What" report -- with a handy infographic to boot!

Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, senior features writer.

This was first published in November 2013

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