There are those who shop at Best Buy and those who don’t. The dichotomy seems simple enough. But according to internal company documents leaked to the popular Consumerist blog, Best Buy doesn’t think all its customers are equal. Take “Ray Middle America.” He’s one of eight typical customers immortalized in the leaked training documents as a persona, a stereotype that allows staff to quickly recognize his needs and spending habits. “Ray” is no ordinary customer. He “loves Best Buy,” is a hard-
core “techno-tainment enthusiast”—and he’s the company’s “bread and butter,” accounting for over 20 per cent of its sales.
The documents also warn staff they’d better “start respecting their elders,” people like “empty-nesters Charlie and Helen.” Shoppers over the age of 55, the documents note, have $ 10,000 more per year than any other group to spend on things like electronics. And while Helen is by no means a Best Buy regular, she is “rediscovering ‘me time,’ ” and is open to being sold technology that will keep her “connected to her community.”
Best Buy isn’t just interested in identifying good customers; it also wants to isolate those who don’t fit into its sales strategy. In 2004, the chain estimated that as many as 100 million of the 500 million customers who visit its U.S. stores are “demon customers”-cheapskates who don’t make it past the discount bin. The leaked personas are those customers Best Buy wants to keep—the “angels”—rather than wasting time with the skinflints. Darren Dahl, an expert in consumer behaviour at the University of British Columbia, says such a strategy is not only common, it may be good business practice, too. “Some significant little chunk of their consumers, they don’t make money on,” he says. “It’s in their interest to either change those customers or lose them. Let ’em go shop at Wal-Mart.” M
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