With the holiday season here, we’ll soon be showered with images and words suggesting that while consumer electronics will once again be a major driver of holiday sales, for some they will also be a perennial source of aggravation.
These gifts, so the storyline goes, will perplex moms and dads alike as they fidget with gadgets and gizmos they’ve received or become exasperated trying to set up those they’ve given their kids.
The problem is, these images are outdated, based on conventional wisdom circa 2003.
The truth is, people today are savvier than ever – despite some residual and real frustration – comfortable with and reliant on consumer electronics that connect them with one another and the world beyond.
What’s been fascinating for those of us in the consumer technology industry to watch, however, is that despite how people and their relationship with technology are portrayed in the media, people themselves have already moved on – actually, they’ve moved to the center, taking the reins of their own destiny to drive innovation and use technology to engage with the world on their own terms.
All of this is not merely wishful thinking.
As the CEO of the world’s largest consumer-electronics retailer I hear from people every day– our customers, our sales team and our vendors – about how people use the products they buy, how they wish they could use them, and what frustrates them about those products they do use.
People’s behavior in today’s connected world is no longer a one size fits all manifestation of the technology industry’s desire to capture attention and sales. Instead, it is a reflection of their desire to use technology to enrich their lives, whether it’s to consume entertainment or deepen their relationships with one another and stay close.
Those companies that recognize and respond to this shift – that advocate for and partner with people as they make their needs and desires known through their behavior and other means – will succeed like never before, even in an inhospitable economic environment.
Here’s what we know from extensive consumer research and what we’ve done in response that has underscored our success and growth in a constantly more competitive and high-stakes industry: First, technology doesn’t drive behavior as much as behavior drives technology. In response we’ve instituted a proprietary process to capture and synthesize insights in real time from the millions of people who come through our doors every year and from the tens of thousands of people on our sales team that interacts with them daily. This helps us not only identify gaps between what we offer and what people want, but how to narrow that gap to the consumer’s advantage.
Second, as much as people want to talk with one another, they want their devices to “talk” with one another, as well, so they can share and store content seamlessly, effortlessly and securely. We’ve reacted by upping the number of our stores dedicated solely to mobile devices and applications to ensure that our customers are getting the products and expertise necessary to stay connected.
And third though far from last, some people remain frustrated by what they see as the complexity of consumer technology as well as the plethora of choices. This is perhaps the easiest place for the industry to step up and do what’s right by ensuring their employees and service offerings are in synch with what their customers need. To many the bevy of products on our shelves define who we are as a company, and they are very important, but I believe our Blue Shirt sales team and Geek Squad Agents contribute disproportionally to the consumer experience and, given our steady and continuing growth, it’s fair to say that consumers think we are on the right track.
We aren’t naïve. We know some people think consumer technology can be as much a burden as boon. But we’ve humanized the experience and both the consumer and we have benefitted by doing so. We’ve staked our future on listening to and connecting with consumers, just as they have staked theirs on connecting with the world around them.
In today’s connected world, anything less is a total disconnect.
Brian J. Dunn is chief executive officer of Best Buy Co., Inc. , the multinational retailer of technology and entertainment products and services.