The holiday shopping season is upon us. Retailers are clamoring for the hottest deals, promotions, and attractions to gain your business. Given the huge focus on e-commerce this month, it seemed appropriate to provide a review and analysis on a huge national brand with an active online presence. There are many sites to choose from, but we decided to focus on Best Buy’s website, www.bestbuy.com.
Overall, we give the site high marks. The navigation is easy to use and the graphics on the home page are visually appealing. There is not a lot of clutter on the homepage, which makes it easy to navigate and find the area you are looking for. They also feature their latest deals on products, making it easy for people to find more information. Best Buy allows their visitors to shop online, similar to most e-commerce sites, but gives them the option of picking up the product in store. This caters to the customers that do not want to wait for the product to be shipped to them and do not have time or do not want to go into the store to select the product.
The site is designed to offer the user a similar experience online as they would find in the store. Best Buy has integrated a lot of “Calls to Action” on the site, featuring their “Geek Squad” service. They are offering advice, tips, and tricks for shoppers to help them with their shopping experience. It appears that making information to assist the customer in making a decision is very important to Best Buy. Essentially, they are trying to create the feeling of shopping in the store on their site by providing the same type of expert opinion the consumer has grown to expect when visiting a Best Buy store. When searching for Laptop computers, they offer links titled “5 Features to consider” and “Know before You Buy”. This helps the user make decisions and provides information to the shopper in an easy to use/find fashion. The question and answer forum on their site allows for the user to view commonly asked questions and topics to find answers and tips. The tips are very similar to the ones you find in the store, making it easier for you to shop online and virtually eliminating the need to go in to the store for expert information.
Building and managing a small e-commerce site is a large undertaking. Building, maintaining and managing a world class e-commerce site with thousands of products, order fulfillment, in-store pickup, coupons, varying product availability and specialized landing pages based on searches or categories boggles the mind. Yet somehow Best Buy pulls it off without the user being aware of the complexity of the system.
In reviewing the site, Vice President of Product Development, Aaron Brander searched for “Call of Duty” in the search box from the home page. He expected the search results to return a list of titles that matched “Call of Duty” as that would certainly be the easiest way to program the site. Instead, he landed on a specialized landing page that featured “Call of Duty” videos, special product offerings, and then a list of products matching the search. Aaron remarked that the mechanism they use to build special pages like that is either extremely sophisticated or programed manually, which can be very time consuming and difficult to accomplish! http://screencast.com/t/b2HlJwfAj
Overall, our programmers were impressed with complexity of the programming on this site. Without digging into the code, they gave the site an A in this area.
Given the complicated nature of Best Buy’s website, it can be difficult to design a clean and easy to use site that’s both functional and visually appealing. However, our designer mswanson felt that Best Buy did a good job with their overall design. He remarked that, visually, the site is clean and spacious, drawing attention to products and giving clear navigational paths throughout the site. Products, Service and Offers are easily available through the well thought out navigation design. And the detailed footer navigation makes it easy to find some of the less prominent pieces of information on the site quickly and painlessly. When you first log onto the site, you can’t help but notice that the featured products and deals are the driving force. The large slider on the homepage offers the latest deals in a very visually attractive way. Also, the minimal color scheme draws attention to the products rather than distracting the user from them or cluttering the page.
Mark also spent some time comparing BestBuy.com to competitor sites ABC Warehouse and CompUSA. He noticed pretty distinct difference in the quality of the sites. ABC Warehouse (www.abcwarehouse.com) and CompUSA (www.compusa.com) essentially provide the same information as the Best Buy site, but in a less visually attractive and intuitive way. The overall layout of the ABC Warehouse and Comp USA sites feel more dated, cluttered and less focused than what Best Buy is doing. Best Buy manages to provide clear paths to what you came to the site looking for without trying to push as many products as possible to you. Their competitor’s sites however, seem to be product pushing and are difficult to navigate through. Overall, as a company that sells the latest and most current technology, the Best Buy site feels more modern than its competitor’s sites.
The biggest design flaw Mark noticed with the Best Buy site was the left and right margin issues when viewing many of the interior pages of the side. The content on many of these pages doesn’t span the full width of the site, leaving large margins on either side of the content as seen here: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Audio/Musical-Instruments/abcat0207000.c?id=abcat0207000. Mark also noticed some issues in the header in the Firefox browser. The section reading “Welcome Please create an account or Sign in” overlaps the “SHOPS & DEALS” area in the main navigation. Also, the position of “category” and “search boxes” are being pushed far below where they are positioned in Chrome and Safari. This illustrates the importance of verifying the site in all of the major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, IE8, and Safari.
Overall, the site layout is both nice and inviting. They did a great job of showcasing a lot of information in a clean way. Our designers gave it an A-.
If you know anything about Best Buy, there is no question that their use of Social Media is innovative. Best Buy was an early adopter to social media channels, creating their “Twelp Force” to answer customer questions and issues through Twitter. Because of this, Best Buy has gained credibility in social media. They encourage all their employees to Tweet from their “Twelp Force” account to offer customers the fastest responses with quality information. They also have separate twitter accounts for Best Buy, Best Buy Mobile, and The Geek Squad. All these accounts are active and responsive to customer questions. This provides Best Buy the opportunity for “top of mind” awareness with their user and increases customer satisfaction with purchases.
Best Buy has a solid presence on Facebook as well. They have a lot of traffic, engagement, and comments on their page. Given the amount of fans they have on their page, it can be difficult to respond to everyone who posts or comments, but they do respond to quite a few. They also identify who is responding to the messages, such as saying that it is coming from one person or another person, which is helpful in ensuring that all customer issues are addressed quickly. Their page includes numerous tabs that are engaging their fans to return to the page often. Their “Shop and Share” tab allows the user to find a product they are interested in purchasing and share that product on their news feed to solicit advice and opinions from their friends before they purchase. Also, they have a tab to locate the nearest local Best Buy Store. Their “store finder” tab allows the user to locate their nearest location easily. For the holiday season, Best Buy has introduced “Kenneth The Blue Elf”- a fictional character that’s designed to help customers find the perfect holiday gift. Kenneth has his own Twitter account and a tab on the Best Buy fan page. This is another way that Best Buy capitalizes on their social media presence to increase customer knowledge and satisfaction with their brand.
They have started additional social media pages for other aspects of their business. These include a separate page for Best Buy mobile, gaming, music, movies, racing, and WOLF (Women’s Leadership Forum) at Best Buy. All the additional pages are updated and maintained regularly, but do not feature customized tabs and other engaging opportunities for customers like the main page does. Best Buy is facing a problem with local stores starting their own Facebook fan pages. I’m not sure why a local store would dedicate time or resources to this, as their promotions are typically the same as the national stores. The only reason I would see them doing this would be to feature community engagement and go beyond what the national site is doing.
Best Buy has a statement of usage on their page, guiding the users to act appropriately when posting on their wall. This information is housed under the “Info” tab and reads: “We welcome all questions and commentary, including criticism. By using or accessing Best Buy’s Facebook page, you agree to comply with Facebook’s Terms and Conditions (http://www.facebook.com/terms.php?ref=pf). We will delete any content that is a violation of these terms or is contrary to our company values. Personal attacks, vulgarity or racism will not be tolerated and will be deleted immediately. If the behavior continues, we reserve the right to block you from posting on this page. If you have a serious customer service issue, we recommend going to http://forums.bestbuy.com/ for the fastest path to resolution.”
Overall, their use of social media is both groundbreaking and industry-leading; they have set the mark for capitalizing on social media. This is why we give them an overall grade of an A+ for Social Media.
Best Buy is a commonly-known brand that sells many commonly-known brands. The key to SEO success for Best Buy is to show up in search results when a user is looking to purchase a particular product or service. The most common way Best Buy appeared in search results for a particular product was via paid search. However, they are competing with other retailers like Wal-Mart, which typically ranks first in paid search results for various products. From an organic search perspective, it would be difficult for Best Buy to compete with the various product sites. They also would not WANT to compete with these sites as typically product sites provide information, details, and specs.
They need to be cautious about the amount of time they spend focusing on SEO, however, as they do not want to infringe on any partner agreements with large companies such as Apple. Best Buy’s ability to offer in-store and online assistance when purchasing a product will keep customers returning to their site for useful and knowledgeable information.
Given the limitations of what Best Buy can accomplish in SEO rankings, we give them an overall grade of an A for SEO.
~Christina Torri, Social Media Coordinator, with contributions from the Mindscape at Hanon McKendry team.