You are currently viewing Way Back Machine: How Best Buy’s Website Has Evolved with the Digital Consumer

Way Back Machine: How Best Buy’s Website Has Evolved with the Digital Consumer

What’s in this article:

  • In this series, we take a look at how various brands’ website and digital efforts have evolved over the years
  • Best Buy’s website has undergone both minor tweaks and major overhauls since its inception back in 1998
  • The consumer electronics giant has continued to use its digital presence to serve its customers — and stay ultra-relevant in the process

If you live in the US, Best Buy is one of the first places you think of when you hear the phrase “consumer electronics”.

And it’s been that way for years — even decades.

Yes, Amazon has recently overtaken Best Buy as the reigning king of consumer electronics.

And the retail giant has had its fair share of troubles as of late.

Become the best CRMer you can:
CRM Hack: Monitoring the User’s Heartbeat
What Does It Mean to Treat a Customer’s Email With Respect?
To Lock or Not to Lock Customers (into CRM Journeys)
What the Efforts to Promote Responsible Gaming Look Like Form the Inside

But the fact is, Best Buy has managed to survive its most tumultuous years in order to continue thriving today.

This is due in large part to the company’s ability to evolve its online presence to meet the needs of the modern eCommerce consumer. In fact, Best Buy’s digital sales actually increased throughout the shutdown of 2020 by over $1.1 billion.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the evolution of Best Buy’s website — from its inception in 1998 to its current state in 2021.

Let’s dive in.

10 Actionable Insights for Online Retailers in 1998: The Start of Something New

As with our breakdown of Walgreens’ website, we start with a blast from the past from the early days of eCommerce:

As it was with most websites back in the mid- to late-90s, Best Buy’s original site was jam-packed with text, images, links — all thrown together somewhat haphazardly.

That said, the homepage (and overall site) is a bit more organized than most other websites of the time:

  • Line breaks are used to denote different topics/sections of the homepage
  • The header and left sidebar point users to specific areas of the website in a clear manner
  • The right sidebar is dedicated to content regarding weekly announcements and events

On that note, it’s also worth mentioning the value of the content being presented. From sales info to concert and event announcements, to product comparisons, Best Buy’s on-site content has always aimed to keep consumers engaged and informed in a variety of ways.

You’ll also notice that Best Buy has been using brand partnerships even back during these early days of eCommerce.

By teaming up with AMD and its Professional Gamers’ League, Best Buy was able to promote a variety of electronics equipment aimed specifically at PC gamers.

(Side note: Knowing how far eSports have come, it’s safe to say this and similar campaigns were way ahead of their time.)

We’re also seeing the seeds of omnichannel experiences being planted in the form of on- and offline services offered via Best Buy’s website. From PC training event registration to online credit card applications, early digital users could use Best Buy’s website as a starting point for future brick-and-mortar experiences — and much more.

All this said, Best Buy’s eCommerce offerings were still rather rudimentary at the time: While customers could order smaller items (e.g., CDs, DVDs, etc.) online, they’d need to visit their local storefront to purchase electronics equipment, furniture, and other larger products.

That would all change pretty soon, though. in 2000: The Beginning of a Revolution

2000-2001 saw the first major shift in how Best Buy approached its website and overall eCommerce presence.

Before we dig into the big changes made, let’s take a look at the main homepage:

As you can see, the site’s a bit less cluttered — and much more organized and navigable. With each section more clearly labeled, users could easily find the information they’re looking for without having their attention pulled to other parts of the site.

Best Buy had also added a search feature to its website by this time, allowing online users to quickly find exactly what they’re looking for with ease.

Also noticeable is Best Buy’s increased investment into content, as shown in its “Click ‘n’ Learn” section on the homepage. Here, consumers could learn more about emerging, unfamiliar technology, and also stay up-to-date with the hottest games, music, and digital entertainment of the day.

The biggest improvement, of course, is in Best Buy’s expanded product catalog. In addition to CDs, DVDs, and games, customers could now purchase larger, more expensive electronic equipment directly on-site. While this is nothing new by today’s standards, it was the dawn of a new era back in 2000.

For those who may have been skeptical of making such large purchases online, Best Buy offered a variety of incentives, such as:

  • Mail-in rebates on PCs ordered online
  • Six months of no-interest payments
  • Buy online, pick-up in store options

(Yes, though BOPIS has come back into the limelight in recent years, it’s been around for much longer than that.)

This iteration of Best Buy’s website shows a continued shift toward delivering value to the customer on their terms. This would prove to be a huge part of the brand’s success in the years to come. in 2009: A Much-Needed Revamp

Best Buy continued to tweak and update its website over the next decade — culminating in a major overhaul in 2009.

This more modern rendition of Best Buy’s site showed a much stronger focus on organization and navigability.

  • Separate sections became even more clearly-labeled
  • Site search became more focused and user-friendly
  • Drop-down menus and footer links allowed users to quickly navigate to the section of their choice

The strategic use of white space also cut down on clutter — again keeping visitors focused on their specific purpose (and less distracted by other on-site content).

Best Buy also doubled down on promoting its various services via its website, as well.

These services — from Geek Squad installations and repairs to digital downloads, to concierge-like product suggestions — allowed users to be more intentional in their online shopping and browsing. Moreover, it gave them even more reason to choose Best Buy over their less user-friendly competitors.

At this point, Best Buy had also fully embraced content marketing as a way to keep site visitors informed, engaged, and heading toward conversion.

This content added some much-needed depth to Best Buy’s on-site customer experience. The use of content is more strategic than ever and is clearly focused on helping consumers at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

By 2009, Best Buy’s website was no longer an “extra” part of the customer experience, with the main focus remaining on the brick-and-mortar world. With this newest evolution, Best Buy’s website became an integral — and even a central — part of the brand’s experience. from 2015-2017: A Time of Constant Change

Aside from a few aesthetic changes, Best Buy’s site remained relatively unchanged from 2009 to around 2015.

In comparing the 2009 and 2015 versions of Best Buy’s website, we see a number of similarities:

  • Organized presentation of site content, with purposeful use of white space
  • A healthy mix of information related to Best Buy’s products, services, and promotions
  • Strategic use of content to engage and nurture customers toward conversion

Still, the user experience remained relatively unchanged throughout this time period.

As 2017 rolled around, though, Best Buy made some impactful changes to its site experience — while managing to keep the site’s appearance as it was.

In terms of on-site user experience, Best Buy made two noticeable changes.

First, the team began implementing website sliders (or carousels) within different sections of the homepage. This allowed them to present additional content to users without adding clutter to the page — while also allowing visitors to navigate said content at their leisure.

Secondly, a navigational change was made to the site’s dropdown menus. While previously activated via mouse hover, users would now need to actually click on the menu they wish to navigate.

For desktop users, this minimized distraction while browsing the site — and allowed for more purposeful navigation. This improvement was also necessary to allow for mobile users to interact with the dropdown menus at all.

On top of these navigational improvements, Best Buy also began focusing heavily on delivering a personalized experience to its site visitors.

Here, Best Buy used the promise of personalization to incentivize visitors to create and log into a store account — which would provide the company with a more direct line of communication with their audience members.

(Of course, the customer would also benefit from these more personalized engagements with the brand moving forward, as well.)

Finally, Best Buy continued to evolve the services their customers had come to expect, such as its financing and fulfillment options, on-site content, and service and support initiatives. Though no longer novel by any stretch, these efforts had by now become a standard part of Best Buy’s overall on-site experience. in 2021: Where Things Currently Stand

Today, Best Buy packs a ton of content and information into its homepage — while still managing to stay as organized and navigable as possible.

One noticeable aspect of Best Buy’s site in 2021 is the way in which it intersperses service offers throughout the homepage (as opposed to in a singular section). Take another look at the screenshots above, and you’ll see offers for:

  • A concierge-type shopping service (a feature that’s been heavily promoted since COVID restrictions were put in place)
  • Information on payment and fulfillment options
  • Instructions as to using smart devices to make purchases via voice search

The homepage also provides actionable ways to donate to the American Red Cross, along with information regarding how your donation will be put to use.

The concierge service mentioned above is perhaps the most impactful addition to Best Buy’s website.

The idea here is to simulate the in-store experience as best as possible for online shoppers via automation and on-demand assistance. Once the user narrows down their product search, they’ll be presented with a number of options for engaging with a sales rep:

Using whichever method is best for them, the customer can then connect with a Best Buy representative to figure out which specific product best fits their needs.

For the customer, this of course leads to a more valuable brand experience. On the company’s end, it means more final sales — and a much smaller number of returns and exchanges.

Best Buy hasn’t just been able to recover from a potential “retail apocalypse” in recent years; it’s actually thrived throughout most of the Covid-related shutdown. This is due in large part to the company’s ability to stay agile and continually deliver value to their evolving customer base.

Though not without its problems, Best Buy continues to use its website to live up to the household name its created for itself.

The post Way Back Machine: How Best Buy’s Website Has Evolved with the Digital Consumer appeared first on Post Funnel.