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Best Buy’s New Stealth Channel

Written by Evan Schuman
October 14th, 2010

Best Buy, along with just about every other major chain, has been focusing lately on pushing its brand in every channel it can think of, from mobile to E-Commerce to social networks. But Best Buy on Tuesday (Oct. 12) made public its moves in a channel where its brand is all but invisible. The new Stealth Channel is letting all kinds of other firms use the chain’s APIs to allow Best Buy purchases with no Best Buy brand visible.

At first glance, the Best Buy Commerce API program doesn’t look that different from its earlier API efforts or from API moves by other chains. And even Best Buy’s official line about the program—”we’ll connect with customers wherever they are”—has a deeply innocuous element. But there’s much more to it.

The program itself is straightforward. Today, when a Best Buy partner wants to sell a Best Buy product electronically, the sale has to be sent to the Best Buy Web site, with its logos and marketing design aplenty.

That can make the sale feel disjointed and, even though it doesn’t actually add any additional steps, make it seem longer and more indirect and inefficient than allowing the initial site to complete the sale. The ultimate fear: that such a move may make consumers more likely to abandon their shopping carts and move on. Sale lost.

The intent behind the new program is to still have the purchase go through the Best Buy site, which will handle all of the complicated product spec (color, size, model, etc.), shipping and payment options, but Best Buy will go stealth—thereby letting the consumer believe the original company is still handling the transaction.

“We’re focusing on the completeness of the experience” and trying to avoid the (true) perception that customers are being “redirected to BestBuy.com,” said Kumar Kandaswamy, Best Buy’s director of API platform business. “This is expanding our reach.”

The chain touts its numbers as it tries to bring in partners, including access to more than “one million current and historical consumer technology products.” (Historical consumer tech products? A PC with Warp on it? A 14,400-baud modem? General Washington’s quill pen?)


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One Comment | Read Best Buy’s New Stealth Channel

  1. Lori Schafer Says:

    Pleased to see you recognizing this quite new initiative and calling it out. I had done extensive research and interviews with the Best Buy team recently and this is one part of their digital media strategy which is going to be a big winner.

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