Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy, took on the role in June 2019, after two decades spent rising through the Minneapolis-based retailer’s ranks. Within six months of moving into the corner office, reports of the COVID-19 virus began to emerge from China.
Barry addressed the challenges and successes she has faced in a keynote at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show. Alan Murray, CEO of Fortune Media, moderated the conversation. Below are the top three takeaways from Barry’s talk.
Retail stores aren’t going anywhere. As of Q3, Best Buy sales are up about 175 percent, Barry said. About 40 percent of those sales are still being picked up in retail locations, whether in the store or curbside. Meeting customers where they are is going to be “going to be the future of retailing,” she added.
This means that if a customer wants an item shipped to their house, delivered to their car with curbside pick-up on the day of an order, or picked up ASAP in-store, retail locations need to be able to accommodate those needs. The role of the retail store is about to broaden, Barry said: “This idea of stores as fulfillment epicenters is really important.”
In addition to helping fulfill orders fast and in accordance with customer desires, retail stores across the board are going to need to meet high expectations: “If I have a great curbside experience at Best Buy, I’m gonna expect everyone else can deliver that kind of curbside experience. Customer expectations will also be raised in terms of what they can get done digitally.”
Effective innovation does not end with the launch. “There are many companies that are represented at CES that are very used to iterating and using more agile models, but as a large-scale retailer with almost 1,000 physical touchpoints, we don’t iterate incredibly well,” Barry explained. “And yet, overnight, not only did we launch new ways of working, but we had an incredible feedback loop with our stores and an incredible feedback loop with our customers. As we heard how they wanted to interact with us, then we would change and move again. [For] that part, I give our teams more credit for than anything — this idea that [you don’t just] launch something. You actually kept working at it until you felt like a solution was right.”
“Diverse teams produce better outcomes,” Barry said. “We said boldly to our customers: … ‘We will do better.’ We meant it, both on a company level but also a community and a country level. That means underrepresentation in our own business, but it also means overcoming technology inequality. It also means making sure that there are job opportunities for people who need it most.”
In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests this summer, leadership at Best Buy decided to focus on a handful of goals to reach by 2025: To fill one in every three non-hourly corporate positions with BIPOC employees, to fill one in every three non-hourly corporate positions with women employees, to build a network of 100 Teen Tech Centers to teach students technology-related skills, and to provide $44 million for college preparation opportunities for BIPOC students.