Best Buy, in partnership with Canon, Nikon and Sony, redesigned its digital imaging departments in every major market to show customers what’s possible in the world of photography and videography. In fact, by mid-August, 133 Best Buy stores featured Camera Experience Shops (CES). The shops offer customers increased interaction with an expanded assortment of products. In addition they provide support from trained, dedicated experts.
Inspiration for Change
The photo-imaging industry has been in decline, due to—among other factors—smartphones becoming the go-to imaging device for casual users. As a result, the market for digital cameras with built-in lenses has decreased.
Rather than accept this decline as fate, Best Buy saw it as an opportunity to serve its customers with an experience they can’t get from other big-box retailers or online. Says Darren Schwartz, Best Buy’s Sales Operations manager for Digital Imaging: “With more and more specialty camera retailers going out of business, we have the unique advantage of essentially being a specialty camera retailer in the middle of a big-box store, thereby reaching more customers.”
In 2014, Best Buy began testing its Camera Experience Shops concept to find out how well customers would receive it. After the first weekend’s results at its test stores in New York, Atlanta, Denver, Boston and Chicago, they knew the concept interested customers.
“Since the decision was made to expand this concept to more stores, Best Buy has continued to innovate and evolve. It has expanded product assortment and increased customer awareness through online, in-store and direct-mail marketing,” adds Schwartz. By year-end 2014, 29 more stores featured the CES concept. Another 53 stores were added in 2015, 27 more in 2016, another 16 in 2017 and two additional stores this year.
Camera Experience Shops Benefits
Some benefits of these enhanced CES locations include the following.
1. Expanded Assortment: There is a greater variety of cameras, camcorders, accessories and gear available for customers to test and try.
2. Expert Service: Full-time Camera Experience Experts, who represent three of Best Buy’s biggest brands—Canon, Nikon and Sony—offer customers valuable support. These experts attend weeklong boot camps to acquire or refine their photography skills from professional photographers. While these Camera Experience Experts receive specialized training around the brand they represent, they are trained to sell all brands.
3. Monthly Photo Workshops: These free two-hour workshops are presented on the first Saturday of every month. Held in-store, the first hour covers photography and camera-setting basics. In addition, the second hour changes monthly and focuses on a seasonal theme, e.g., how to take holiday card photos in the winter months or graduation portrait photography in the spring.
4. Photo Workshop Tours: Available in select markets on October 20, 2018 and January 19, 2019, these workshop tours are Best Buy’s first step into teaching a more advanced consumer. A step up from the free monthly photo workshops, these programs transport participants from their local Camera Experience Shops to offsite locations for a half-day photo shoot experience. Six CES Experts as well as two pro photographers teach an array of hands-on photography concepts. They focus on individual themes: Travel & Exploring, during the October workshop; and Social Sharing & Storytelling in January.
“We offered these offsite workshops after hearing from customers consistently that they were eager for more photo education options. They would not have been possible without the support of our vendor partners,” says Schwartz.
Taking Stock, Moving Ahead
Best Buy’s “specialty retailer experience” makeover continues to evolve and expand. Since 2014, the retailer has modified its sales staff training by adding a certification requirement to the curriculum. It requires Camera Experience Experts to prove their proficiency in photography and selling skills. Next year, advanced training will further enhance their skills.
Moreover, Best Buy recently introduced a dedicated Best Buy Community Forum, customized for Camera Experience Experts. It allows them to be in direct contact with their peers, vendors, photo coaches and corporate partners. The forum also gives employees a platform for sharing best practices and showcasing their photography skills.
“Our Camera Experience Shop concept is still in its early stages. However, we are pleased with our progress with regard to the level of engagement from the Camera Experience Experts and customer interest. We’ve started to drive more customer awareness of the Camera Experience Shops this year, promoting a nationwide presence with 133 major market locations. Also, for the first time, we will have a booth at PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. We will showcase how these CES locations are creating a specialty retailer experience in the middle of a big-box store,” adds Schwartz.