Best Buy

Bridging the gap between site design and business culture.

When Larsen Marketing was hired by Best Buy for the specific task of creating a new online annual report, creative staff who toured the electronic retailer’s corporate Web site found a disconnect between the site’s look and feel and Best Buy’s youthful and entrepreneurial culture. Paul Wharton, vice president of creative at Larsen, a Minneapolis-based design, branding, and interactive marketing company, mentioned this to Best Buy managers, who quickly agreed that the annual report project should be expanded to rethinking the whole site.
 
“The corporate section of the site conveyed the Blue Shirts as a supplemental element, and had no personality, no imagery, and no photos of the Blue Shirts, which the company considers integral to its culture,” Wharton says, referring to Best Buy’s front-line work force. The site also lacked a cohesive feel—sections for public relations and investor relations all looked different from one another. “They were fragmented on line, and the site didn’t reflect a company that is very retail-oriented and has a large, energetic group of young employees,” he says.
 
 
Face Time
 
One of the first redesign suggestions Larsen made was to highlight photos of real Best Buy employees, not models, in a series of light-hearted poses on the site. The change involved some risk because of natural turnover in those positions, a fact that didn’t dissuade Best Buy. “Management fully committed to using employees because the Blue Shirts are so important to the culture. And they just decided to refresh photos if people do in fact leave the company,” says Jennifer Parks, a senior producer at Larsen. “The company feels the photos really reinforce and reflect its brand and its values.”
 
The site makeover also included new copy for corporate sections, repurposing existing photography, and adding new photos. Short videos of the CEO talking candidly about the company’s performance, providing rationale for management decisions, were added to the investor relations page. The videos were shot and edited by Best Buy’s internal media group. The addition of video required a server upgrade to accommodate increased bandwidth demands.
 
“We felt it was important for Best Buy, as a technology company, to communicate with Web site visitors in ways other than text,” says David Molanphy, Larsen’s design director. “We also wanted to make sure the company’s personality shined through in the videos.”
No Finish Line
 
To stay relevant to Internet search engines and users, Best Buy offers a regular influx of fresh content and new ideas. For instance, a “Connect” section serves as an aggregator of employee blogs, Twitter feeds, and other social media content. The thinking behind the section is to “help filter up to the top authentic employee communication from Best Buy employees,” Parks says. An employee with an existing blog can ask to have it included.
 
In an upgraded “News” section, icons are attached to articles or press releases to designate them as a specific type of content. “Rather than only being able to search information by date or keyword, you can now do a visual search of the news area by brand or topic,” Parks says. If a user is only interested in mobile products, for example, it’s easy to spot news on those topics.
 
As a big believer in transparency, Best Buy also sought to make financial data on the site easier to access and understand for a variety of visitors—including high school students, who often use the site to write reports as part of school work.
 
“Best Buy wanted the site to be simple enough, engaging enough, and direct enough so a high school student can easily figure out who they are and what they do,” Wharton says. It turns out those same factors have enhanced the site in the eyes of many visitors.