April 23, 2011

Bill Anderson
Vice President-Executive Creative Director
Best Buy Media Network

Bill Anderson is vice president and executive creative director for Best Buy Media Network, the ad-supported in-store media network of consumer electronics retailer Best Buy Co. He manages Best Buy’s Yellow Tag Productions, the company’s internal creative arm, which creates original video content, ad campaigns and other programming. Anderson works closely with Keith Bryan, senior director of media strategy for the Network, who is responsible for buy- and sell-side media for the consumer electronics retailer across all digital and offline media channels.

Anderson and Bryan spoke with eMarketer Writer/Analyst Tobi Elkin about the role online video plays; why Best Buy chose to implement a media-based business model for its video content and programming rather than going down the syndication route taken by many retailers; and its evolving programming aspirations.

eMarketer: What is Best Buy’s online video strategy?

Bill Anderson: We launched Best Buy Media Network two years ago as an in-store network with original video programming on our TV wall. The goal was to develop a video network that talks to customers in-store and online.

The video content is delivered through Best Buy On, our multichannel network—in-store, online and mobile—and offers our unique point of view on technology. It’s a vehicle for us to educate, entertain and offer original video content, but it’s not a place where we try to sell you something.

“The goal is for people to encounter video content while they’re on BestBuy.com and in the store.”

The goal is for people to encounter video content while they’re on BestBuy.com and in the store. We’ve been building video players into BestBuy.com over the last year and a half. If a customer wants to engage in more video content apart from the specific video that’s relevant to their shopping experience, they can click over and they’ll be within the experience of BestBuyOn.com. At any point, they can click back over and be in their shopping experience.

We didn’t want to create a standalone media site that pretends that it’s not part of the retail experience. The goal from the start was to enrich and enliven our own retail channels with great video content that feels like it’s organically part of the shopping experience.

eMarketer: What are Best Buy’s business goals with respect to online video?

Anderson: When we launched in January 2010, we wanted to offer customers our point of view on the technology and to be a catalyst for the evolution of the Best Buy brand. People don’t give Best Buy credit for having a point of view and a voice.

The second objective was to build a new ad model business for Best Buy. Our retail traffic is an impressive audience in terms of numbers and it’s receptivity to a story. We saw a great opportunity to create content about technology. We also try really hard to make sure that our content—even if it’s about technology—is entertaining. The programming on Best Buy On lives at the intersection of technology and entertainment.

Bryan: First and foremost, our goal is to ensure that our story breaks through on our real estate, where our customers engage with us. We have over a billion visitors to our stores and website every year. While it’s exciting to deploy video elsewhere, the first priority is for video to be catalytic for the brand.

“The business model for Best Buy Media Network isn’t based on video contributing to sales lift and conversion. It’s based upon ad sales.”

The business model for Best Buy Media Network isn’t based on video contributing to sales lift and conversion. It’s based upon ad sales. Obviously, we hope the video programming motivates and inspires consumers with disposable income to buy technology. We are using video content to inspire customers to discover new product categories and decide when the right time is to buy a tablet and/or other kinds of devices.

eMarketer: What types of videos do you offer?

Anderson: We have a series of Tech 101 videos that offer how-tos and tips, and flag product benefits and features. That’s the bread and butter of what we do. We also do “Did you know?”-style videos. We have a series called Tech Translator, which takes a word or phrase and explains it. People who aren’t early adopters are often afraid to admit that they don’t know what something means. For example, we might explain what a megapixel is.

We focus on products because there are always new products. As the Android-based tablets hit the market, we believe there’s probably a year-long series of videos addressing what different manufacturers and Google are doing with the new family of tablets.

eMarketer: What kind of metrics do you use to measure the effectiveness of online video in achieving your goals? While you have an ad-based model at the end of the day, all retailers want to drive sales and video can help do that.

“We approach the metrics like a media company, so we’re looking at engagement, duration, time spent, video stops and starts.”

Anderson: We are approaching the metrics like a media company, so we’re looking at engagement, duration, time spent, video stops and starts. We are not currently tracking sales conversion as a result of video views.

eMarketer: Can you explain that?

Anderson: From the beginning, we knew that the expectation would be that video would live in close proximity to a sales lift P&L. We had an instinct that it’s something customers see and smell a mile away. If this was going to be different and consistent with the genuine desire of Best Buy to be helpful and to offer people a sense of choice and a point of view, then we didn’t want to associate ourselves with a sales lift model.

Our research showed that if we could hold true to that concept and develop content that wasn’t shilling, then we would get a ton of credit from our audience. We’ve done a lot of research on it, and have anecdotal support as well.

The first fiscal year is in the books and we were profitable. We’re sticking to our guns. You’ll see pre-roll ads—advertising in-store that is sold adjacent to the video stories on the HD wall and departmental channels. We have a display ad arm of our sales team that’s selling banner and display ads online.

eMarketer: What’s next as you evolve the strategy?

Bryan: We want to make sure our content is discoverable and we want to continue to build our network online. We have plenty of opportunities to monetize. While video content distribution and syndication are important, they’re not a cornerstone of this year’s priorities.

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