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Retailers Further Sharpening Their Multichannel Skills


How does Best Buy look at its various
distribution channels?

Mike Vitelli, Best Buy:

We have dot-com and
then there’s bricks, but consumers are in this kind
of multichannel life. They don’t call it that — they just
live it. It starts with my phone, and then I’m on my
tablet, and now I’m on my computer, and then I go
into the store. My expectation is that all of that is kind
of integrated.

So here we are with stores and the dot-com site,
and now a phone app. We try to make sure that those
are all working together. If you [online] guys started
opening up stores, you’d say, “How am I going to
make that experience the same that they’re seeing
online?” And it has to be the same. You want to have
the same customer experience and the same feeling.
That’s the expectation that a consumer has.


Do you have an idealized ratio of brick-toonline


No. We’re working on the technicalities and
the share percentages of it. Traffic and transactions
really have changed a little bit with our store patterns.
We had tremendous growth on

, and
that translates in some cases to business picking up
in the store. During the course of the year, 40 percent
of purchases on

are picked up at the
store, and that rapidly increases during the holidays.
But it’s all one experience for the consumer. They can
start in the store and leave and then do research, and
then come back or buy it on their phone.

Noah Herschman, eBay:

Anytime, anywhere,


That’s it.


Nationwide has also upped the e-commerce
ante for independent dealers with new programs
and more enhanced platforms.

Jeannette Howe, Specialty Electronics Nationwide

We’re very active in this field. We
hired Frank Sandtner a couple of years ago from
AOL, and he has really expanded the offering for our
dealers. We have three Internet providers that can
help our dealers build websites, we have catalogs
for them and we are also doing courses at our next
PrimeTime event on how to use QR codes in an effective

There are some challenges in the manufacturing
community because some feel that their distribution
online is very mature. Trying to convince them that a
smaller dealer should be able to play in that game as
well is challenging at times. But we are working to
help our dealers be able to sell online.

We’re also working with Noah here on the Milo initiative
because we do think that if someone is on their
phone, we want to be able to have them go to a local
store and be able to purchase something.


Milo is a company that eBay purchased
a year ago. It uses your
global IP address, whether on your
computer or your mobile device,
and live inventory feeds, to determine
where the closest in-stock
product is and at what price in a
brick-and-mortar store that’s near you. Best Buy is
also one of our partners.


Our goal for the most part is to drive business
to the stores, particularly if you’re offering custom
installation or if you’re selling something like a
mattress — doing that online is challenging. You do
want the customer to be able to come in and have the
touch-and-feel experience.


It also depends on the customer. A
lot of customers want to shop in a store — they want
to be able to look and touch and feel the product,
and they want it right now. They don’t want to wait
around for it.

But you really need a mix of both online and offline.
As we said, retailers need to be able to cater to the
customer however they want to shop, anytime, anywhere.
We also need to make sure that retailers who
sell on eBay remain healthy both online and offline.
That’s why we offer offline products like X.Commerce,
Magento and Milo.

Dave Workman, PRO Group:

We’re probably
known as much as anything as a brick-and-click
group — we have a lot of core competencies around
the web. Our goal is to do everything possible to
bring the brick-and-mortar experience online.

In many cases, the challenge these guys have is
visibility as differentiated, promoting, value-added
specialty retailers. eBay is known for aggregating
enthusiasts around categories, and our new
partnership [see TWICE, Jan. 10, p. 12] is going
to provide our dealers an opportunity to gain more
eyeballs. We’re very excited about it. It’s a very important
and strategic partnership that will help our
dealers going forward.


Yes, we are very interested in the enthusiast
customers, and when we look at the people
who are really providing excellent service online,
PRO Group is right up there at the top in terms of
their ability to ship, to have the product in stock, to
handle returns, to be competitive in the marketplace,
and to provide tremendous after-sale customer service.
It really is a great way for us to be able to offer
those kinds of benefits to eBay customers.

For us it’s not really about the eBay brand itself.
We’re just a marketplace, and what we want to do is
connect the buyer with the seller at the right time for
the right product.


It’s interesting because in many respects
we as a group are evolving toward how that
balance of brick-and-mortar and web works in the
marketplace, and what each of those sides of the ledger
do best. In spite of some of the difficulties, this
is actually a very exciting time for our group moving


Rob, do you have to continually build out
your e-commerce capabilities to keep up with online

Rob Eby, D&H Distributing:

We’re certainly
growing that part of the business, and keeping up
with that is always a challenge. We constantly have
to look at our warehousing facilities. We just built a
brand-new mezzanine in our Harrisburg [Pa.] warehouse.
Instead of building out, we built up to create
more space because we’re always adding new items
and new products based on the demand of our customer
base. We’re normally at around 45,000 or
50,000 different items that we have out there for

Also, being able to execute in timely manner is very
important too because when a customer gives you an
order, they expect it to go out that same day.