Best Buy Launching AI-Generated Customer Support, Says Tech Will Assist Staff

Best Buy April 9 announced it is working with Google Cloud to launch generative AI technology to assist consumers on the consumer electronics giant’s website, app and phone access.

Expected to launch in late summer 2024, this new option will allow U.S. customers to get help from a gen AI-powered virtual assistant. This assistant will help customers troubleshoot product issues, make changes to their order delivery and scheduling, and manage their software and Geek Squad subscriptions, among other functions.

Mindful of the ramifications AI could have on actual Best Buy employees, the company reiterated that the technology would be used to assist staff. As a result, Best Buy said that in the coming months it will also launch a new suite of gen AI-enabled tools to help the chain’s customer care agents better serve customers over the phone.

The AI tools will help Best Buy agents assess customer conversations in real-time, providing them with in-the-moment, relevant and human-focused recommendations. At the same time, the tools will summarize conversations, detect sentiment and utilize data from the call to reduce the likelihood a similar issue will occur in the future.

“For our store employees across the country, we’re working to develop an AI-powered assistant to provide easier access to things like company resources and product guides,” read a Best Buy statement. “This will allow them to help customers more efficiently than ever.”

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Merchandising: A Look Back at the Last Days of DVD and Blu-ray at Best Buy

Best Buy confirmed in October 2023 that it was exiting the DVD and Blu-ray Disc business, but the physical media home entertainment formats were still offered in stores for the first two months of 2024.

Based on observations at a Best Buy location in Costa Mesa, Calif., the chain stepped up efforts to scale back its home video sections shortly after the new year. A Jan. 3 visit found a sparsely populated new-release home video display, while a clerk was pulling titles from shelves in the DVD and Blu-ray section and loading them onto a cart.

All signs pointed to the chain trying to sell off its remaining inventory. Best Buy’s website touted disc sales such as 4K movies for as low as $11.99, 4K Steelbooks starting at $22.99, and Blu-ray Disc movies for as low as $5.99.

Meanwhile, the most notable new releases the first week of 2024 were not in stock. In particular, Universal’s The Holdovers, an awards contender from noted director Alexander Payne, could not be found on the chain’s website. Nor could another notable Jan. 2 release, Lionsgate’s The Marsh King’s Daughter.

By contrast, the last notable release of 2023, Sony Pictures’ Butcher’s Crossing with Nicolas Cage, could still be bought from the Best Buy website, though it wasn’t available in stores. The most-recent significant release still available in Best Buy’s brick-and-mortar stores was Universal’s The Exorcist: Believer, released Dec. 19.

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Sometime in the week before Jan. 24, the store removed two prominent DVD/Blu-ray kiosks displays, leaving just a mostly empty new-release display toward the front of the store, and a single aisle of disc shelves in the middle. The kiosks were still situated next to the main aisle during a store check on Jan. 17.

Two DVD/Blu-ray display kiosks in the physical media section of a Costa Mesa, Calif., Best Buy seen on Jan. 17, 2024, were gone a week later.

Meanwhile, the chain discounted its exclusive Steelbook editions to as low as $9.99. The selection included a number of 4K Steelbook combo packs, including Marvel movies such as Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and other films such as Schindler’s List.

At some point during the first week of February the store removed its new-release Blu-ray and DVD display from the front of the store. What titles remained there were moved to the lone home media aisle that still remained at the center of the store.

The store completely cleared out its packaged-media inventory in the week prior to Feb. 28, leaving behind a set of empty shelves in the middle of the store. The scene was no doubt similar at other locations as an era of physical media truly comes to an end.

Remaining DVD/Blu-ray inventory at a Best Buy in Costa Mesa, Calif., Feb. 21
Empty DVD/Blu-ray section at a Best Buy in Costa Mesa, Calif., Feb. 28

As of March 6 the store had yet to replace the empty shelves with a new display for other products.

The chain continues to sell DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, 4K Ultra HD discs and Steelbooks on its website.

Best Buy Q4 Entertainment Revenue Increased 8.4%, Driven By Video Games

Best Buy Feb. 29 reported a 8.4% increase in entertainment segment revenue for the fiscal fourth quarter (ended Feb. 3). That was an uptick from a 0.2% comparable same stores increase in the previous year period.

The segment, which includes products such as DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs, and computer software, upped its percentage of the overall domestic revenue mix 1% to $1.34 billion (10%) from $1.21 billion (9%) in the prior-year period.

The principle segment revenue driver included video game hardware and software. Best Buy recently disclosed it would cease selling movie DVDs and Blu-ray Discs in 2024, which has left most stores with barren shelves and point-of-purchase displays.

Overall, the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer realized declines across most business segments, including a 4.2% drop in computing and mobile phones; a 9% drop in legacy consumer electronics, and a 13.7% fall in appliances. Services, which includes the Geek Squad, saw a 6.3% increase in sales, down from a 12.4% increase in the prior-year period.

“In the fourth quarter and throughout FY24, we demonstrated strong operational execution as we navigated a pressured consumer electronics sales environment,” CEO Corie Barry said in a statement. “This allowed us to deliver annual profitability at the high end of our original guidance range even though sales came in below our original guidance range.”

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However, Barry said she pleased with the ongoing uptick in paid Geek Squad membership base, which helped increase and drove customer experience improvements in many business areas, particularly in services and delivery, which saw revenue top $844 million.

Merchandising: Best Buy Steelbooks Discounted

As Best Buy continues to clear out its DVD and Blu-ray inventories, the chain has discounted its exclusive Steelbook editions to as low as $9.99.

The selection includes a number of 4K Steelbook combo packs, including Marvel movies such as Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and other films such as Schindler’s List.

Meanwhile, the Best Buy DVD death watch continues as the chain’s stores continue to downsize their movie sections in advance of abandoning the business altogether. A store in Costa Mesa, Calif., removed two prominent DVD/Blu-ray kiosks displays in the past week, leaving just a mostly empty New Release display toward the front of the store, and a single aisle of disc shelves in the middle. The kiosks were still situated next to the main aisle during a store check on Jan. 17, but by Jan. 24 they were gone.

Merchandising: More Discounts to Kick Off 2024

Without much in the way of new disc releases to tout a week into 2024, retailers continue to clear out inventory with deep discounts on existing product.

Target promoted up to 30% off “Collector movies and books,” though the selection seemed limited to some “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” graphic novels and complete series sets, plus assorted anime. Target’s weekly ad circular also pushed preorders for Sony Pictures’ birth of Jesus musical Journey to Bethlehem, due Jan. 16.

Meanwhile, the Best Buy disc death watch continues, as the chains’ in-store inventory dwindles away. Disc sales at Best Buy include 4K movies as low as $11.99, and up to 50% off featured movies, TV shows and collections.

As for the future exclusives, Disney’s announcement of The Marvels for a Feb. 13 physical media release could indicate Walmart may become the primary source of new 4K Steelbooks that were previously Best Buy’s bread and butter. In addition to regular 4K, Blu-ray and DVD releases, The Marvels will be available in a Walmart-exclusive 4K combo pack Steelbook.

Merchandising: Deep Discounts Portend Best Buy’s Disc Exodus

For months, DVD and Blu-ray collectors have been dealing with the news that Best Buy was planning to exit the disc market in early 2024. Now that the new year has arrived, the chain has apparently stepped up efforts to carry out that plan.

A Jan. 3 visit to a Best Buy location in Southern California found a sparsely populated new-release home video display, while a clerk was pulling titles from shelves in the DVD and Blu-ray section and loading them onto a cart.

All signs point to the chain trying to sell off its remaining inventory. Best Buy’s website touted disc sales such as 4K movies for as low as $11.99, 4K Steelbooks starting at $22.99, and Blu-ray Disc movies for as low as $5.99.

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Meanwhile, the most notable new releases the first week of 2024 were not in stock. In particular, Universal’s The Holdovers, an awards contender from noted director Alexander Payne, could not be found on the chain’s website. Nor could another notable Jan. 2 release, Lionsgate’s The Marsh King’s Daughter.

By contrast, the last notable release of 2023, Sony Pictures’ Butcher’s Crossing with Nicolas Cage, can be bought from the Best Buy website, though it’s not available in stores. The most-recent significant release still available in Best Buy’s brick-and-mortar stores is Universal’s The Exorcist: Believer, released Dec. 19.

As Disc Phaseout Looms, Best Buy Steelbooks Command High Prices on eBay

Prices for Best Buy Steelbooks are skyrocketing on eBay and other auction sites, spurred by word that the mighty consumer electronics chain, which helped birth the DVD sellthrough business in the late 1990s, is ditching the disc for good.

A sealed copy of Best Buy’s exclusive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook of The Wizard of Oz, released in October 2019, has an asking price of $999 on eBay, despite a “minor tiny dent,” according to the listing.

The same seller, who goes by the name Matineemagic, has sealed Best Buy Steelbooks of half a dozen other films, including Aladdin, Ratatouille, Blade and the first three Toy Story films, listed at the same price.

Other exclusive Best Buy Steelbooks offered for sale on eBay as of Dec. 28 include The Goonies, $800; the Spider-Man Legacy Collection (described as “ultra rare A+++”), $699.99; the Planet Of The Apes Trilogy (“rare OOP mint”), $700 or best offer; and Lord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy, $699.99.

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But asking prices are one thing — actual sales, another. Among recently completed transactions, Rambo: The Complete 4K Steelbook Collection, another Best Buy exclusive, sold for $349.99 while two copies of Best Buy’s Lord of the Rings trilogy Steelbook fetched $290 and $289.99, respectively.

Best Buy in October announced it is phasing out DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays at its 1,000-plus stores as well as online — including the exclusive Steelbooks prized by collectors.

Merchandising: Retailers Closing Out 2023 With Disc Discounts

With a thin slate of new releases Dec. 26, most retailers turned to closing out 2023 with the usual post-holiday sales.

Best Buy touted up to 40% off featured movies, with a minimum savings of 3%. Titles include 4K discs for The Goonies, John Wick: Chapter 3, Halloween Ends, WandaVision, Saw X, Titanic and The Twilight Saga.

Target enabled a 20% savings on movies through the retailers Circle app.

Separately, Target and Walmart have been promoting preorders for the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of DreamWorks’ animated sequel Trolls Band Together, though it hasn’t been announced for release yet.

Walmart’s version has two pack-in light-up bracelets for $29.96.

Target’s is a sing-along edition with a 40-page filmmaker gallery booklet, though no price is listed. Also, despite the title being listed as a preorder in the company’s weekly ad circular, the link to the title on retailer’s website doesn’t work.

Merchandising: A Steelbook ‘Believer’

With Universal Pictures releasing The Exorcist: Believer on Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 19, Best Buy offered an exclusive Steelbook edition of the film.

Marking 50 years since the release of the iconic original The Exorcist, Believer is the sixth film in the “Exorcist” franchise but serves as a direct sequel to the first film. The film was produced by Jason Blum through his Blumhouse Productions label alongside Morgan Creek Entertainment and Rough House Pictures.

The Best Buy Steelbook combo pack includes the film on 4K disc and Blu-ray for $38.99.

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Best Buy’s ‘Avatar’ 4K Steelbook

Best Buy also has a new three-disc 4K  Steelbook set of the original 2009 Avatar for $41.99. The discs match the content from the Avatar 4K edition released earlier in the year and not the newly released four-disc collector’s edition.

Meanwhile, Target is holding a “last minute deals” sale through Dec. 24, which includes DVDs and Blu-rays pried at $5, $10 and $15 each.

Merchandising: ‘Indiana Jones’ and the Retail Exclusives

Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny arrived on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 5, and a couple retailers offered exclusive editions of the adventure film.

Walmart’s ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ 4K Blu-ray with pin

Walmart had a version of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack with custom artwork and a limited-edition enamel pin of the Archimedes Dial, the so-called “Dial of Destiny” of the film’s title and the quest object of the film’s plot. The listed price was $34.96, though most physical Walmart locations didn’t have them in stock, according to the retailer’s website. Copies were still available for purchase online, however.

Best Buy, as usual, offered its Steelbook edition of the 4K Blu-ray combo pack, listed for $41.99, though mostly sold out already. According to the Best Buy website, copies were no longer available for online purchase, though some physical locations still had a copy.

Best Buy’s ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ 4K Steelbook

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Best Buy also had Steelbook editions for a couple of catalog titles being re-released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray during the week.

One was the 1988 Western Young Guns, from Lionsgate, offered at $23.99.

Best Buy’s ‘Young Guns’ 4K Steelbook

The other was for the 1991 actioner Point Break, from Shout! Studios, for $33.99.

Best Buy’s ‘Point Break’ 4K Steelbook