Best Buy: Turn it Around or Turn it Upside Down?

Please note: this post originally appeared on the Omnishopper blog.

If you’ve been in business in the last two decades, you’ve likely heard of turnaround situations or perhaps spent some time in the middle of one. Turnaround, often called a “company doctor” situation in the UK, has become an industry in itself. The metaphor of visiting a doctor works nicely as the company doctor can push, probe and prod us to find where it hurts and diagnose ailments.

Now, put yourself inside Best Buy just five years ago and consider what you’re facing. Retail is getting more competitive by the day as Amazon grows dramatically. Traditional retailers are being used as showrooms for online retail. Online is designed for better margins because they don’t have physical stores, physical displays, and all the other physical items required to merchandise products. At this macro level, the future is not bright for Best Buy.

What would you do? Would your survival instinct kick in?

The contrasting emotion to your survival instinct is empathy. Empathy is best defined as your ability to feel what others feel and understand the emotional state of another human being. The world of design is built on a foundation of empathy and certainly an experience design effort requires an entire team swimming in a pool of empathy. Survival instincts are diametrically opposed to empathy.

This builds up to a simple idea: empathy and survival would appear to be fighting each other. If you’re in Best Buy, would you think the next phase of business growth is going to be focused on experience design? Or would you hear it and think, “yeah, they’re just giving it lip service, Best Buy won’t really focus on experience design.” How could they make that happen? They’re in survival mode.

“If it isn’t on the (customer experience) path, you should wonder if you’re working on it. Customer experience is the driving force behind what gets attention and therefore gets done.” ~ Kate Kompelien, Best Buy Customer Experience Design

The Best Buy leadership team got the order that going forward, all initiatives have to tie back to the customer experience pathway. The customer experience team doesn’t take away decision making power, but rather offers a way to provide clarity around what is important to the future of Best Buy. All roads are redrawn to focus on the customer, and therefore have empathy for the human being interacting with a Best Buy experience.

“Three to four years ago the company wasn’t ready for it. Eventually your organization will be ready.” ~ Kate Kompelien, Best Buy Customer Experience Design

This quote is in reference to the fact that the Best Buy team is just now, in January 2017, making this effort central to their future. While you might say “it’s about time”, you must also consider how many other brands have yet to comprehend the importance of the customer experience. How many brands that are still not on board will wait until they’re facing a turnaround?

If you're inside a brand with very little knowledge of customer experience design, pull out the keyboard and email someone to get informed. The sooner you start, the better chance you’ll break through to the board room earlier.

Call Capsule if you’d like to learn more.

Kitty Hart, Lucy Robb and I write for the OmniShopper event blog, please reach out if you have a story to share.


Aaron Keller
Founder, Capsule Design
Author, The Physics of Brand

About The Author

Aaron Keller

I am an author, strategist, researcher, cyclist, reader and consummate entrepreneur. When an interesting idea crosses my path, I find any way we can bring it to life. Earning an MBA from the Carlson School and numerous valuable credits at the school of hard knocks, I’ll sit at a boardroom conversation with anyone. Want to talk business strategy, consumer behavior and design? Oh, it’s on.