Best Buy readies for the holidays online and in-store. Shoppers select retailers with pricing in mind.

There are many studies that shed light on consumer behavior over the holidays along with what the industry and retailers predict will be the state of this season. While all of those are interesting, I have found over my long career that there’s no substitute for digging into the shopper experience on a retailer’s website and visiting their stores to get the true point-of-view.

So that’s just what I decided to do—observe. I will be looking at 12 retailers (and others I encounter along the way) over three critical time frames and highlighting how they are approaching the season. I will focus on five trends in some iteration that will be integral to success but rest assured there will be more. They include stock, promotions, holiday flair, omnichannel initiatives and customer service, particularly returns. There may still be time for retailers if they want to adopt a twist or test a marketing tactic. If not, as they say in sports, there’s always next year. Today, I’m focusing on consumer electronics chain Best Buy Co. Inc, No. 5 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.

Stock and delivery sets the tone

Shoppers clearly want to know what’s available before making their purchases this holiday season. 43% of online shoppers say they expect to check product availability online for delivery as a part of their online holiday shopping experience, according to a survey of 1,000 consumers in October 2021 from Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights.

No shopper wants to weed through a site only to confront an “out-of-stock” obstacle, which we are expecting to be relatively prominent over the holidays. Filters are a powerful tool that help save shoppers time. While some retailers have allowed shoppers to filter for store pickup, this is the first time I have seen a retailer call out availability in such a prominent position and allowing shoppers to filter for it. Best Buy’s feature allows visitors to exclude out-of-stock products. When I searched for Apple headphones, the filter on left indicates 17 items were hidden because they were out of stock.

best buy navigation

Best Buy enables availability navigation to hide out-of-stock items.

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Gifting flair

On Nov. 1, as I began to look at retail sites, Best Buy dedicated much of its homepage to the holidays ahead. It led with “Black Friday prices guaranteed.” Shoppers can be confident that what they purchase will be protected. The fine print reads that it extends this guarantee to Best Buy Totaltech and My Best Buy members on items that are labeled with this guarantee and will refund the difference if the price goes down on or before Nov. 26, 2021.

An interesting twist comes with Best Buy’s Member Monday promotion, a feature that changes daily but buyer beware as there are no rainchecks. Of course the usual suspects are present including top deals, gifts by price point and an expansive set of gifts by category and recipients to cover their bases.

best buy gift page

Best Buy gift guide is comprehensive including Member Monday promotion.

An omnichannel nod

From an omnichannel perspective, Best Buy has long been a leader. The site highlights its logistics capabilities that include free, next-day delivery. We know from Digital Commerce 360’s 2021 Pre-holiday survey that the No. 1 reason for a consumer to select a retailer to shop with over the holiday season, according to 66% of surveyed shoppers, is free shipping.

Best Buy’s ready in one hour makes it convenient for shoppers to get what they need on their terms with curbside pickup. Our research also revealed that 17% of online shoppers expect to use curbside pickup this holiday season, although my guess is that this will be much higher once all is said and done.

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During the pandemic, retailers got creative in the ways they might connect with shoppers. Best Buy promotes that winning model by highlighting its Shop with an Expert service. As shoppers have gravitated to such virtual opportunities, it is well positioned to take care of customers just the way they want.

best buy virtual shopper

Best Buy integrates virtual shopping into the online experience.

Promotions are in play

Perhaps one of the most important things shoppers want this holiday is the security that they are getting a good price. The No. 2 answer when asked what the most important factors are in choosing an online retailer was competitive prices. 

Looking beyond the general prices factor, another important reason for selecting a retailer for holiday shopping, according to 34% of participants, is valuable promotions. Shoppers can save a hefty $220 on this Samsung Galaxy Watch3. Best Buy smartly reinforces its Black Friday Guarantee and its Total Tech membership at the all-important product page detail page. I commend it for wisely extending its holiday return period until Jan. 16, as we know 27% of survey respondents favor such return policy flexibility in the retailers they select.

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best buy samsung

Best Buy product page offers an extended holiday return option.

So what about the store?

On Nov. 2, I visited one of the Best Buy stores close to my Chicago home as I wanted to see how it might be readying the store for the holidays, how stocked the store was, whether products were already on promotion and lastly how omnichannel was integrated into the store experience.

The TVs were lined up in anticipation of Black Friday visitors, however, stock was not at the usual seasonal heights. As an example, Apple accessories seemed to be in limited supply. It was clear that its Best Buy Total Tech initiative was prioritized with both signage in English and Spanish.

Best Buy total tech

Best Buy is prioritizing their membership initiatives.

But mostly what sticks in my mind as I walked to the store from the parking lot was that the store in many ways was now focused on driving traffic to the web in more ways than I can remember. Three signs speak to its role and the first is a focus on mobile with “We’re with you” signage that directed shoppers to the Best Buy app. The “Looking for more? BestBuy.com” sign, which BestBuy often displays inside the store, has prominent outside visibility, as does a store pickup sign. Best Buy has certainly had these signs over the past years, as Best Buy has always had a strong omnichannel presence, but its heightened visibility surely won’t be missed by customers this holiday season.

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Best Buy BOPISBest Buy app best buy more at dotcom

The web can make updates and tweaks as the season amps up while stores put their final touches and signage will likely remain in place. We will watch to see what choices shoppers make, whether they will be shopping online and in-store and how the channels work together to support one another as inventory and logistics face a perilous few months. If there’s no stock, there is no sale, so just getting this right may be half the battle.

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