May 22, 2008

Best Buy and B&H Multichannel Marketing

At ACCM, I heard a half dozen speakers drill the multichannel marketing script into the permeable heads of honorable conference attendees.

So today I am looking to purchase a camcorder. B&H sends me a catalog, a nice multichannel piece. So nice that it drives me to Best Buy to physically look at the camcorder. There, I find another camcorder I like. I notice that the price of this item appears expensive.

I go home, look at the Best Buy website, and see that the price is consistent between stores and online. Multichannel advocates rejoice! But the camcorder is still expensive. A price comparison reveals that the item is 20% cheaper at B&H, and 25% cheaper at

The item will be purchased at

Industry leadership continues to harp on the fact that multichannel marketing works. And today, it did work. A catalog from one brand led to a store visit at another brand, which led to an online search for the cheapest price, leading me to buy the camcorder from an online pureplay. Demand siphons out of the multichannel value chain, into an online pureplay. The multichannel marketers pay the freight for retail square footage and paper-based marketing, but lose the sale to a low-cost online pureplay that does not execute traditional advertising strategies.

An entire industry is missing the point of multichannel marketing. Pretty catalogs, integrated e-mail campaigns, and cross-channel inventory alignment is nice.

But multichannel marketing is pure pap, feckless when confronted by convenience, fast shipping, and cheap prices.

And worst of all, the multichannel industry fuels this trend by advertising the items that ultimately are purchased at pureplays that don't employ traditional advertising.


Aside: A Best Buy employee told a customer that he wanted to take her television outside to her car because it was too hot inside the building. She asked the employee why they couldn't turn on air conditioning. He said they couldn't because climate control was manned from Minneapolis. If that story is true, then Best Buy management is really knocking down some silos, huh folks?!!


  1. Anonymous6:35 PM

    Where does loyalty come into this for you? Are you willing to spend more based on the quality of service or information you received?

    Also, does product type or availability drive the success of online pureplay? If you're selling a product that's available from a multitude of sources (ie, commodity), it seems like online pureplay companies can benefit from other company's advertising budgets.

  2. Yup, I'm willing to spend more based on the quality of service or information I receive!

    I entirely agree that commodity based products benefit an online pureplay.

    Catalog and retail brands that are generally hyper-successful often serve niches with unusual products or services, and those products and services can be priced at a premium because they cannot easily be found or replicated elsewhere.

    So, in my industry, the folks who tell you that you "have to be multichannel" might be right ... or there might be a veritable plethora of additional issues that contribute to success. You mention loyalty and product availability, two important aspects of the puzzle.

    Good questions!


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