O.K., suspend your disbelief just for a moment and hear me out…
In 1999, Joe Pine and James Gilmore, authors of "The Experience Economy" predicted that we were entering an era where intense commoditization of goods left retailers with only one alternative — the need to design and stage unique and memorable experiences that are so good they justify charging an admission. So far, this hasn’t really materialized beyond the gates of Disney World, but the question is, has the time finally arrived?
One can’t help but wonder if embattled electronics retailer Best Buy might not be the canary in the coalmine to test Pine and Gilmore’s theory in the real world. Could Best Buy reinvent such an extraordinary closed-door, online/offline, electronics shopping experience that it could justify a per-visit admission or perhaps an annual membership fee?
But let’s be clear. I’m not talking about adding a few part-timers to the sales floor at peak hours. And I don’t mean shouting an overly enthusiastic, and mandated “Hi!” at every customer entering the store. I’m talking about something way, way beyond that — something truly unusual, revolutionary and transformative. And I’m also not suggesting charging some nominal, apologetic, nuisance fee. I’m talking about an amount great enough that it does two things; creates significant customer expectations of the experience they’re going to be getting and also drives significant revenue for Best Buy. Ever hear anyone say they felt ripped off at Disney World? Me neither. Disney World isn’t cheap and a mind-blowing shopping experience shouldn’t be either.
So, back to my question. Could Best Buy offer an experience worth paying for. Could they offer:
First-look access at manufacturer prototype products?
Guaranteed access to new model introductions?
Exclusive brand launch party access?
Trade-in programs and incentives?
Super-experiential displays and product sets?
Member-only tech test-drive programs?
Access to super-high-end and more rare products and services for the true tech freak?
A completely connected and personalized experience using the mobile device as the tether?
Could Best Buy pull it off? Or perhaps the more pressing question is, do they even have a choice in the matter?
Retail futurist, Doug Stephens is an in-demand speaker for private and public sector audiences across North America on the mega-trends shaping a new era of retailing and consumerism. His thinking has influenced many of North America's best-known brands. Doug is a regular guest expert on the CTV television series App Central TV and media contact on trends in the retail landscape.