Last week I was in California visiting family, but like most of us on "vacation" these days, I was still working in my subconscious. One of my goals while there was to get my mother-in-law set up on a new computer; her old one was just that—old, and wouldn't allow her to watch videos of her grandkids or Skype.
Apple wasn't an option—she knows how to operate a PC, and has no interest in learning the quirks of a new operating system. I went to the local Best Buy store in Costa Mesa to scope out options; this of course after doing some online research beforehand. I didn't have time to order something and have it shipped, so buying in a local brick and mortar was part of the plan.
I knew more or less what I wanted, but needed some advice. Enter Errick, an associate in the computer department at Best Buy. I told Errick what I wanted, and who would use it, and how. He asked some additional questions and came up with a couple of other ideas. He also talked me into a one-year tech support option for $99 that I wouldn't normally have considered.
After 30 minutes I walked out with a new PC, happy with my purchase and feeling as though I made an informed choice. Looking back, had I shopped only online, I wouldn't have made this choice, and while it's only been a week, so far things have gone perfectly with the new machine.
While I was there I asked Errick about the new CEO, and how things were going. He was very upbeat, and felt as though Best Buy was on the upswing. As a three-year veteran of the company, he's been around long enough to have experienced the dark days of the recession and the myriad cutbacks that accompanied it.
All this got me thinking about the concerns over brick & mortar stores vs. online shopping, as well as showrooming. While the Internet has forever changed how we shop, not to mention changing the pricing landscape, there is still much to be said for shopping in a real store, talking with real people who are knowledgeable about the products they are selling, and completing a transaction right then and there.
Online reviews will continue to be helpful, but counterfeit reviews are becoming more common. Price is important, but only one component of the value equation. I left Best Buy feeling like I made an informed purchase that would meet my mother-in-law's needs, all while getting a great price. I may have been able to find it cheaper online, but I honestly didn't have the desire to go looking.
Thanks Errick, and thanks Best Buy, for restoring my faith that brick and mortar retail can continue to prosper in the new world of transparent pricing and online shopping.
Jeff Weidauer is vice president of marketing and strategy for Vestcom, a provider of integrated shopper marketing solutions. With over 30 years of retail experience, Jeff is a prominent speaker, writer and expert source to retailers, brands and media on shopper marketing and the evolving retail industry.