Merchant Innovation

The Traveling Salesman Returns (C/O Amazon And Best Buy)

The future of electronics sales is here.

It looks surprisingly like the sales of encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners of the past.

Best Buy Co. and Inc. are hiring salespeople — door-to-door salespeople — ready to make house calls and offer consumers a very personalized service.

Best Buy’s service — which is now in the process of hiring hundreds — sends in-home experts out so they can help customers chose the right product for their environment.

The free service is geared at finding new ways to drive sales of TVs and other home electronics as customers’ shopping habits are changing — and making the physical trip to a shopping center is just plainly unpalatable. Plus, it gives more outlets to Best Buy’s proprietary Geek Squad, which specializes in home installation and technical repair.

According to Best Buy Chief Executive Hubert Joly, the new service “allows us to unlock latent demand.”

“What we're finding is people in the home tend to spend more because we address a bigger need for them compared to what they spend in the store.”

And if there is a way to make people spend more — best believe Amazon will be all over it.

The nation’s ranking eCommerce giant is expanding a program that sends employees out into the field to provide “smart home consultations” for free.  The door-to-door visitors also let shoppers test Echo smart speakers and voice-controlled devices and will do some free installation if the consumer decides to buy.

The company launched the service in its home market of Seattle in July 2016 and has since expanded to six other cities. It has job listings for technicians in additional markets such as Chicago and Hoboken, N.J.

“Amazon Smart Home Services isn't just about buying or even installing smart home products, it's about educating customers on how it all works and customizing the products,” said an Amazon spokesman.

Best Buy believes that its brand-agnostic stance will help it work as the honest broker in consumers’ homes.

“Despite what the vendors might want, there’s no customer who has only one brand in the home,” said Joly, the retailer's CEO.

“This is not a zero-sum game between Amazon and Best Buy,” said Joly. “There's room, frankly, for several players.”



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