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Human-Centric Marketing: Lessons from Best Buy's Misstep

Human-Centric Marketing: Lessons from Best Buy's Misstep

Dustin Brackett
March 28, 2024

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I have purchased a lot of items over the years from Best Buy (I have a lot of habits, but I will neither confirm nor deny that I have a bit of a technology obsession). Over the course of one year alone, I bought a television, two monitors, a Mac Studio, Apple AirPods, a phone case, and a screen protector for my iPhone. All of this was done using my Best Buy account and email address. You'd think that would give the company a solid grasp of who I am, what I'm interested in, and how to promote sales and new products to me.

That was definitely not the case during the holiday season of 2022. In November and December of that year alone, I received a total of 59 emails (more than seven emails per week) from them.

The Personalization Problem

Best Buy’s marketing tactic was wildly spammy. No one wants to receive more than an email every single day from any business. It's overkill and completely obnoxious. Best Buy compounded the issue by not delivering any sort of segmented or customized experience based on what they already knew about me. Based on my purchase history alone (not even going into the products that I have looked at online), they should be aware of what model of iPhone I have, my affinity (or addiction) for Apple products, and that I likely do a lot of work on my computer. Emails about Apple sales, new products, upgrading my iPhone, and accessories for my products and workspace would be very relevant to my interests. Those kinds of messages would speak to my interests, not the interests of what Best Buy wants to sell me.

Missed Opportunities for Relevance

Instead, I received an email every single day about sales on gaming equipment, appliances, projectors, fitness equipment, virtual reality headsets, air purifiers, cameras, and just about anything else that I had no interest in. There was absolutely no personalization to these emails. I was just another email in their database.

As someone interested in marketing, I read all these emails, trying to understand the strategy behind them. I tried to get into the minds of the marketers who decided this was a good idea. I tried to understand why they didn't use any personalization. I tried to understand why almost every one of the 59 emails looked nearly identical. I tried to understand why they thought, based on my activity, that I wanted ads for gaming systems, Samsung watches, and Windows laptops. I tried and tried, and at some point, my brain simply shut off.

The Human Disconnect

Not only was this entire campaign lazy, with an almost identical design each time and no thought put into the actual content, but it made me feel like a number. It led me, as a consumer, to an obvious conclusion — Best Buy doesn't care about me as a human. They only care about me as far as my wallet will take me. They only care about getting me to purchase something, anything, from them.

It was infuriating and annoying, and the most infuriating part was the insane level of spam. It has made me reconsider where I will purchase my technology going forward. Best Buy clearly subscribes to the more, more, more mentality. They were focused on one thing and one thing only — new sales. Those emails weren't meant to do anything but throw as many ads in my face as they possibly could.

Why Personalization Matters

Best Buy’s strategy is not how companies will win loyal customers. We tune these things out. And with as much money as I have spent at Best Buy over the years, I unsubscribed from their emails because they were so annoying.

The data shows just how out-of-touch this kind of strategy is:

  • 49% of Gen Z say they are less likely to shop brands that don't offer personalized experiences, with 27% stopping altogether.
  • 56% of consumers will return after a positive, personalized experience, up 7% from the previous year.
  • 71% of consumers expect personalization, and 76% are frustrated when brands fail to deliver.

Customers today crave personal, human-centric connections with the brands they buy from. Scripted batch-and-blast tactics like Best Buy used don't work anymore. Brands need to take a nuanced approach guided by customer data.

Activating Data

Purchase histories, browsing behavior, product interests, and more can help build rich customer profiles. Then, put that data to work crafting targeted messaging, recommendations, and experiences tailored to each individual.

The brands that tune into the human element and ditch robotic automation in favor of real personalization will be the ones that succeed. With customer expectations around individualization only rising, human-centric marketing isn't just good business — it's an existential necessity.

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