#NRF2019: Best Buy, retail technology and in-store merchandising

Aaron Pyles, senior retail operations director at US electricals retailer Best Buy, has offered a quickfire assessment about the technology it is deploying to help its in-store merchandising processes.

In a session at NRF 2019, in New York, he explained that so many of the tools being introduced by the company are based on feedback from its staff on what would make their lives easier. The information is sought from regular questionnaires and via its internal “retail network” committee which comprises staff from across different divisions of the business.

The new retail technology introduced in the last few years, includes electronic shelf labels (ESL) from Pricer, and tablet-based software for planogram instructions and staff communication from One Door. Pyles offered some comments on each of the innovations.


In 2018, Best Buy put ESL in a high percentage of its stores. It’s currently in over 280 of its circa 1,000 shops, and Pyles said the company is “working out future roll-out plans”.

Stores without ESLs typically check and set new prices at the shelf edge every Sunday. “It’s such an arduous process that it actually takes six people four or five hours every Sunday to do it,” Pyles explained, adding that ESLs have “reduced an immense amount of back and forth, and a lot of paper waste”.

“Staff say this is one of the greatest things we’ve ever deployed for them – printing price tags is not exciting, it’s a pain-in-the butt task. There are multiple locations throughout the store [for price tags], so they absolutely love it. And it’s a better customer experience because there are fewer errors.”

Pyles noted: “Think about the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when we just send down thousands and thousands of price changes to the store – now they change in 15 minutes. You press a button and it’s done and updated. Store staff love it.”

Digital merchandising tool

Prior to working with One Door, Best Buy’s in-store merchandising processes were very paper-heavy. Now staff can access the information on tablets, and the system includes digital maps on where to find products.

Details about assortment and displays can now be accessed on the shopfloor, where the shelves are, as opposed to on the printer located in the warehouse or back office.

Giving an indication of what went on before the new technology was introduced, Pyles said staff feedback often centred on in-store maps and planograms being difficult to read.

“You’d basically need a decoder to figure it out,” he commented.

“We’re able to take direct feedback to create a much simpler version of the map with halos and colours. We went from 18 layers and a bunch of gobbledegook to cool colours and halos that tell you exactly where to go on the map – it’s far easier to understand and no more decoding [required].”

Pyles added: “In the future enhancements of this we’ll also be able to order parts [for display or shelving] there and then on the shopfloor, eliminating another step.”

Both these retail technology investments have been made based on staff feedback, and for the Best Buy executive team it appears that will continue to be the case. The technology introduced recently has reduced “dozens of hours per store per week”, according to Pyles, but this doesn't appear to be a case of turkeys voting for Christmas.

The retail ops director remarked: “We’ve reinvested that into other merchandising tasks by taking on more work that we would normally pay a third party to do and we’ve also reinvested that in customer-facing labour to have more of a focus on the sales floor.”

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