Best Buy's Frank Crowson Talks About Impact of COVID, Shopper Behavior and What Consumers Want

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Best Buy CMO Frank Crowson (pictured above) is a featured speaker at the upcoming ANA Media Conference on June 16-18 in Aventura, FL. ANA's Senior Vice President Mark Stewart recently connected with Frank for a pre-conference interview.

Mark Stewart: You have just celebrated your first anniversary as CMO at Best Buy. What areas have been a priority for you in your first year?

Frank Crowson: Well, there was never a more interesting time to start as CMO. Thankfully, I was leading large portions of the marketing organization prior to my promotion, so I wasn't starting from zero. My experience with our company and teams allowed me to react more nimbly to what we, and the world, were experiencing. Though credit where credit is due, our ability to react as quickly as we did in the face of the pandemic was the direct result of the work Best Buy did in the months and years leading up to 2020. We were already going down the paths of the technology and service innovations that came to fruition last year, you just saw those timelines get rapidly accelerated.

From a marketing standpoint, we began focusing resources, time and energy on something we used to take for granted -- teaching people how to shop Best Buy. Our messaging and creative became about things like how to make an appointment to shop, explaining curbside pickup or about how we are ensuring customers' safety when we send technicians into their homes.

I am so thankful to have been in this role over the last year. In a time when we were all searching for purpose, it was an honor to work for a company whose purpose (enriching lives through technology) was never more relevant. Technology became the way we all connected with our families, friends, school, work and well, the world. Best Buy facilitated that connection for so many people. It helped to know that what we were doing mattered.

Stewart: Best Buy had an incredible 2020. In Q4 store pickup really increased for Best Buy. Apart from COVID-19, what is driving these shifts in shopper behavior?

Crowson: Human beings and their needs don't drastically change over time. Circumstances simply provide new opportunities for us to evolve the ways in which we meet those needs. That's what we saw last year. When people could no longer go in-store, even customers that were reticent to change tried new ways to have their needs met. And what they discovered with curbside pickup specifically, is that it often met their needs for ease and convenience even faster than traditional e-commerce.

Stewart: You recently started testing Best Buy Beta, an annual subscription service for things like unlimited tech support, free shipping, services, extended warranty protection and exclusive member pricing. What consumer insights led to this decision?

Crowson: It won't surprise people to hear that free shipping and discounts are key purchase drivers for consumers. But at Best Buy we've also had the opportunity to learn from our successful service and warranty businesses as well as our Total Tech Support members across the country. These offerings resonate with consumers, but with Beta we're allowing them to opt into these elements all at once and get a great value in doing so.

Best Buy Beta is about one simple thing: confidence. Customers want to feel confident they're getting the right price, that the install or service on their product will go well, that if what they buy breaks it will be covered and that if they don't know how to make something work...that they know who to call.

Stewart: With Best Buy Media Network, Best Buy is both a media buyer and a media seller. Do you see the Best Buy Media Network as a branding, retail or shopper marketing platform for advertisers?

Crowson:Yes. I'd encourage people to fight the urge to think of them as mutually exclusive.

As a retailer, we help customers through their entire shopping journey. The relationships we have with our customers are deeper and longer term than other retailers by the nature of CE products and Best Buy's extensive services portfolio. Best Buy customers are highly engaged and high touch, with a significant consideration window.

It is the trust and depth in our customer relationships that gives brands, whether endemic or nonendemic to Best Buy, an opportunity to reach Best Buy customers and move them to action. Advertisers can also feel confident, because with our DNA in retail, we will always value the customer experience above all else. Which ensures their ads don't become unwanted noise and instead are additive and enriching to customers' lives, making them more effective.

Whether you are a shopper marketer, brand marketer or an agency, you will find value in Best Buy's customer insights and in reaching Best Buy customers.

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