James Kotecki (00:08): 

This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki, bringing you an interview that I recorded live at the C Space Studio at CES 2023. Enjoy. 


This is the C Space Studio at CS 2023. I am James Kotecki. Welcome back. We're joined by Best Buy's own Allison Peterson, Chief Customer Officer at Best Buy. 


Thanks so much for joining us here today. 

Allison Peterson (00:33): 

Thank you for having me. 

James Kotecki (00:35): 

So you have a cool title, Chief Customer Officer, but I understand you also oversee all marketing. What does that say about how Best Buy is understanding what marketing means in relationship to the customers, et cetera? 

Allison Peterson (00:47): 

That's a good question. I think that the fact that Best Buy marketing sits within what we internally refer to our team as the customer office speaks to Best Buy's commitment around creating really consistent customer experiences. As I have spent time in the industry talking to some of my peers, it seems that everyone's remit looks a little bit different. 

James Kotecki (01:09): 


Allison Peterson (01:09): 

Within our team specifically, we look after enterprise strategy, customer strategy, ass you can't really have one without the other, customer experience, research, and insights, as we talked about, we have our marketing team, and we also own all of the membership propositions for the brand. The goal of our team is to really unlock customer obsession across the company by putting the customer and the employee at the heart of every single thing we do. We do that by really anticipating and understanding what their needs and their motivations and their expectations are, and ultimately to create really concrete and seamless strategies, experiences, and branded expressions. Those three things are really kind of what our team collectively brings together to create that consistent experience. 

James Kotecki (01:55): 

I assume you have a number of different customer types that you think about, but if you could kind of mind meld with some version of an ideal customer who's perfectly in sync with the Best Buy brand, what does that brand look like in their mind? How do they think about Best Buy under ideal circumstances? 

Allison Peterson (02:11): 

Sure. Well, the purpose of our brand is to enrich lives through technology. When you think about what consumers have had to navigate over the past few years and the role technology has played in their lives, our purpose couldn't be more relevant. We like to think of ourselves as a technology playground for our customers. We don't only just help them purchase things, but we want them to come in and discover and play and learn and be inspired by the products. 

James Kotecki (02:11): 


Allison Peterson (02:37): 

Then we also play a very critical role as it relates to supporting them. Whether that's after they buy the purchase, we try to help them really enjoy and get the most out of their technology and support them if something goes wrong. We kind of play across that ecosystem. 


Then finally we created this membership, a paid membership program, that kind of wraps the best of Best Buy altogether. It's called Total Tech and that really delivers kind of the ultimate feeling of confidence to our consumers when they're purchasing their technology. So that's a little bit of what we try to do for customers and how we hope they think of us. 

James Kotecki (03:10): 

You mentioned the pandemic, obviously coming out of that, huge shifts in terms of e-commerce and what retail even means. Here we are at the beginning of 2023. What is Best Buy thinking about the relationship, the overlap, the connection between the physical stores, the online experience, how do you define all that? 

Allison Peterson (03:28): 

Well, that is a very big and broad question. 

James Kotecki (03:31): 


Allison Peterson (03:32): 

I think our biggest objective is to try to meet the customer wherever they're at. We happen to be in a really advantageous position where we have multiple places where we can engage with those customers. Whether that's in our store, on our websites, in their homes, virtually, we have a virtual store, we stood up in the course of the pandemic, all of these ways are ways for us to be able to just connect with our consumers on their terms and to give them the ultimate choice in choosing. 

James Kotecki (04:00): 

What is the virtual store? What does that mean? 

Allison Peterson (04:02): 

The virtual store is an actual 40,000 square foot facility that we created that is, they have no customers in it, but it's a fully mocked up store. 

James Kotecki (04:11): 


Allison Peterson (04:12): 

Within it we have expert consultants that can help you find the right products for you. A good example would be we sell really expensive treadmills and health and fitness equipment. We would have personal trainers in the virtual store. Being able to communicate directly with consumers in their homes about what is the right thing for them or what best meets their needs. That was something that was hugely helpful for us as we were trying to keep consumers and our employees safe through the pandemic. 

James Kotecki (04:41): 

I'm sitting at home, I've got three treadmills that I'm trying to choose between, and I click a button or something and now I'm video chatting with a trainer who can kind of walk me through, "Oh, this one does this. Let me show you how this one operates," on the floor of the actual virtual store. 

Allison Peterson (04:53): 

That's absolutely right. 

James Kotecki (04:54): 

Okay. That's pretty cool. 

Allison Peterson (04:56): 

It is cool. 

James Kotecki (04:56): 

Do you see that as part of the Metaverse? Do you use that term? Do you think in those terms? 

Allison Peterson (05:01): 

The Metaverse, we are starting to think about the Metaverse, and we definitely believe that the Metaverse is a really good way to bring consumers into experiences and start to see what does and doesn't work for them. You asked about physical and digital retail. One of the things we know is that it takes a longer time to be able to adapt and adjust in physical retail and to get that kind of that environment right. We think the Metaverse allows us opportunities to play in a world that we can take consumers through that maybe doesn't have the long lead times that a physical environment would bring about. I think we're starting to think through how some of that technology fits into our current strategies. 

James Kotecki (05:40): 

Yeah. Do you see a world where the retail experience looks radically different? Obviously it'll continue to evolve as digital spaces evolve, as the Metaverse evolves, but do you see ever a need to, "We got to throw away the playbook and totally rethink what the physical situation looks like." I suppose the pandemic was one opportunity to do that. 

Allison Peterson (06:00): 


James Kotecki (06:01): 

How are you thinking about it now? 

Allison Peterson (06:01): 

Yeah, I would say we have done that and we will continue to do that. One example I'll give you is curbside pickup. In the pandemic, we saw businesses immediately pivot to trying to meet the needs of their consumers. What we saw was other industries actually led, like the restaurant industry actually led the importance of curbside pickup out of the chute, and then retailers followed. 

James Kotecki (06:24): 


Allison Peterson (06:24): 

We were act actually able to pivot our entire business model, it's something that I'm truly proud of and proud of the team for doing, in 48 hours to be able to meet the needs of consumers when we were deemed an essential business. That's a really good example of how a typical omnichannel retailer had to reinvent themselves in a moment to meet the needs of consumers. 

And the curbside experience is a really good example of that. We're also, we've been very out loud about the fact that we are testing and learning all sorts of new formats in our physical store concepts. This idea of the experience you can have in a physical store could not be more important than ever. We talked a little bit about why, which is our unique superpower as a brand to be able to really help customers discover and learn and play and get the most out of their technology in those environments. 

James Kotecki (07:10): 

We talk about that retail experience. It includes, increasingly, retail media. I'm in the retail environment and I'm looking at videos or advertising or educational things, all sorts of types of things like that. What is Best Buy thinking? What's your kind of snapshot state of play as far as what retail media means and what you're doing with that? 

Allison Peterson (07:28): 

Sure. Well, no one can deny the enormous growth that's happening in retail media and we're seeing a ton of brands kind of look at this opportunity, really start leaning in, and in their own retail media networks to try to capitalize on that growth. We at Best Buy have been in the business of connecting brands with consumers for many, many years, and retail media networks are kind of the new innovation of the way of doing that. We too have our own retail media network. It's called Best Buy Ads. 

James Kotecki (07:57): 


Allison Peterson (07:58): 

What makes Best Buy ads really unique versus other retail media networks is our truly deep and rich customer data. When you think about how highly considered technology purchases are, not only do we get all of this great data at the moment of the transaction, but we get all of this great information and engagement with our consumers upstream as they're researching and getting inspired about those products as well as on the downstream of that, which is as they go to own these products and they need support and they want to truly get the most out of them, we all actually engage with them in that way and in their homes and in all sorts of different ways. We really play across this buying cycle of technology, and because of that, we have such rich data. 

James Kotecki (08:38): 

Well, I mean, you're talking to a person and I assume many people now are like this. It's like, "Throw away the directions that came with the product. I'm just looking it up. I need to look it up online and find some video about how to set this thing up-" 

Allison Peterson (08:38): 


James Kotecki (08:48): 

... "and how it actually works." 

Allison Peterson (08:49): 


James Kotecki (08:50): 

I want to pivot in the last few moments here to talk about the theme of CES 2023, which is very exciting. This theme is human security for all, which is the idea that tech can do good for food access, climate security, health security, all sorts of things. Does that resonate with Best Buy and what does that mean to you here? 

Allison Peterson (09:07): 

It absolutely resonates with us. We are very committed to protecting our planet as quite honestly, our customers and our employees expect it, and the planet kind of demands it. Between our carbon reduction efforts, our e-waste recycling work, we are very committed to protecting our planet. 

James Kotecki (09:25): 

That's fantastic. Fill in the blank. "2023 will be the year of ..." 

Allison Peterson (09:30): 

Oh, I would say constant iteration. I think when we look at the backdrop of the macro environment we're operating in as well as kind of the dynamic evolution and needs of our consumers, we are going to need to be more focused on progress over perfection. I think if we adapt that more agile way of thinking, I think it will help us be more creative in solving consumer needs and really ultimately growing our businesses. 

James Kotecki (09:57): 

Well, thanks for spending some time with us today. Allison Peterson, of Best Buy. 

Allison Peterson (10:00): 

Absolutely. Thank you for having me. 

James Kotecki (10:02): 

Well, I hope you enjoyed that live conversation from CES 2023. Look up the CES C Space Studio for more conversations like that and get even more CES at ces.tech. That's C-E-S.T-E-C-H. Of course, please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss a moment. I'm James Kotecki, talking tech on CES Tech Talk.