Why New Best Buy E-Commerce Chief Is Focused On In-Store

Written by Frank Hayes and Evan Schuman
October 10th, 2012

Best Buy’s new E-Commerce chief is planning to make changes to the troubled 1,400-store chain that, in their own way, will be as big a shakeup as JCPenney’s so-far-so-disastrous makeover. Scott Durchslag, the former Expedia exec who on Monday (Oct. 8) was brought in as president of online and global E-Commerce, appears to want to flip the usual merged-channel model: Instead of making online a mirror of the in-store experience, he wants to replicate the online experience inside Best Buy stores.

That’s way outside the traditional scope of an E-Commerce president. Then again, Durchslag’s lack of retail experience and tech background might explain much of his optimism—and his scope creep.

Durchslag’s appointment comes against the backdrop of the ongoing battle for financial control of Best Buy—founder Richard Schulze is still trying to take over the company and CFO Jim Muehlbauer announced his resignation on Wednesday (Oct. 10). That boardroom chaos may be the environment that gives Durchslag the latitude to push his vision into the stores themselves.

But he’s still up against Best Buy’s reputation as a victim of showrooming, unknowledgeable associates, high prices and the customer perception that it’s the electronics retailer of last resort—after Amazon, Walmart, Target and Costco have turned up empty.

Durchslag understands some of the huge perception issues his team must overcome. “Showrooming is a symptom, not a cause,” he said. “It’s arrogant to think that you’re going to cause or prevent that kind of behavior. It is a reality that is happening today. The only question is: Are you going to harness that and make things easier, or are you going to try and put your head in the sand and deny reality?”

If he were coming from

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a retail background, we might suspect Durchslag was thinking of Target’s efforts to fight showrooming by making it harder for shoppers to make meaningful online comparisons.

His next thought, though, was that Best Buy could avoid that through deep investment, not just in technology but in associate training. “Best Buy is a Fortune 50 company with an incredibly strong foundation and a strong balance sheet that can invest tens of millions of dollars in training those blue shirts to be able to provide information and support using these new technologies and tools that we’re talking about. That’s a very hard thing for other folks to be able to instantly match.”

It might be just as hard for Best Buy, which is under extreme financial pressures right now, to do any type of serious investments. Meanwhile, customers see Best Buy associates as focused on upselling and pushing products the chain wants to move.

At the same time, Durchslag sees part of his job as getting the pricing right—which almost inevitably means getting prices down. “You need price competitiveness on the key items that drive consumer perception. That’s an area where there is some work that needs to be done,” he said.

And then there’s itself.


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