Business

Best Buy unveils 'Marketplace' plan to sell other retailers' goods online

Best Buy Canada unveiled a program Wednesday that will see the electronics retailer start selling merchandise from other retailers on its website.

Chain will soon launch a web portal that allows other retailers to sell goods via their website

Best Buy will launch the 'Marketplace' portal in the coming months. (J. Pat Carter/Associated Press)

Best Buy Canada has unveiled a program that will see the electronics retailer start selling merchandise from other retailers on its website.

Calling the feature a "Marketplace," the chain said in a release Wednesday that in the next few months Best Buy will, in addition to selling the company's usual selection of electronics, offer shoppers the ability to buy a host of goods from other stores on Best Buy's website, while using the 192 brick and mortar locations to process returns and things like product reservations and pickups.

In some cases, the pickup can be done at the original retailer's stores.

"We're excited to partner with other Canadian retailers on Marketplace," said Thierry Hay-Sabourin, vice-president of e-commerce at the company — although the company declined to specify which particular retailers had signed up already.

"We are investing millions of dollars in our stores and online in order to enhance the customer experience and this is an important step," Hay-Sabourin said.

New strategy

In March, Best Buy shuttered 131 of its subsidiary Future Shop locations across Canada, and re-opened about half of them under the parent company's name, Best Buy. Like many retailers, Best Buy has faced tough competition from online retailers such as Amazon.com that can have lower prices due to fewer expenses from having no physical stores.

It's an especially vexing problem in the electronics sector because of the widespread presence of "showrooming" whereby customers like to come into physical stores to try out devices, but then go home and buy them online for less.

The Marketplace option from Best Buy is clearly targeted at fighting that trend, and making the chain a major player in the growing e-commerce space.

Best Buy would take a commission on every sale it makes, while the participating retailers would presumably get the exposure of Best Buy's broad brand recognition and extensive national footprint of stores. It also means that a small niche retailer wouldn't have to set up its own e-commerce space.

Best Buy would also get the added foot traffic of shoppers from their stores coming into the former's physical locations to pick up their goods — which presents a new opportunity to sell them something.

Other changes

But selling goods from other stores isn't the only part of Best Buy's turnarouind plan. The chain has revamped the way it provides expected delivery times online, to give customers a better sense of when any given product might arrive if they order it online. Previously, some customers had complained about a lack of clarity on expected delivery times, and would sometimes see items arriving after their originally needed them. 

But under a new system, Best Buy says their website will "present customers with an expected arrival date for their item as they browse product pages on BestBuy.ca, before their order is placed."

It also promised to deal with the annoying phenomenon of seeing "out of stock" appear on certain items in the web store, when there are ample supplies of that product in the physical stores.

"Launching this month, Ship-from-store will unlock inventory previously confined to Best Buy stores, allowing customers shopping online greater access to a selection of items," the company said in a release. "This innovation limits the 'Out of Stock' screens sometimes seen on BestBuy.ca"

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