Best Buy is testing a small digital store that opens on Tuesday

Best Buy opens a small-format digital store in Monroe, North Carolina on Tuesday that takes a very different approach to most of its “big box” outlets. The 5,000 square foot location is only about 15% the size of a typical 35-40,000 square foot Best Buy location and is even smaller than many smaller Apple stores, which typically measure between 6,000 and 8,500 square feet.

Bloomberg reported last year that Best Buy was testing reduced locations from around 27,000 square feet to as little as 15,000 square feet, but that’s much smaller, approaching Best Buy Mobile’s now shuttered footprint. That test store is in the Charlotte area, where Best Buy also launched five other test stores last year, trying out experiments ranging from a remodel to an outlet-style approach.

Unlike Best Buy’s factory outlets and department stores that carry many major appliances and electronics, this new store will be stocked with a “curated selection” of Best Buy products including large TVs, computers, headphones, portable devices, cell phones, etc. does not have, however, is major appliances.

The “digital-first” store experience includes Best Buy’s website and apps – it also has lockers for online order pickups – but in-store it starts when visitors are greeted at the entrance by a 7 foot screen with information on what the store has to offer.

Much like the Apple Store, you’ll be able to browse items on the sales floor, but with the exception of smaller items eligible for mobile self-checkout (charging cords, phone cases, and gift cards), the most of them are simply displayed units. When you want to buy something, all you have to do is scan a QR code on the product to start Best Buy’s Just Scan It process. Someone will go to the back and pull out the item for you to purchase.

Fear not if you wondered if the location would contain human interactions in blue shirts, as it features members of the Geek Squad and has other viewing areas for in-store customers. You can also get live help while you’re in the store with an expert from someone in Best Buy’s “virtual store” via voice call, video call or online chat.

Best Buy is just one retailer reassessing its usual brick-and-mortar operating plans after customer behaviors shifted during the pandemic, as we’ve seen Walmart, for example, expand deliveries direct to your refrigerator. In stark contrast, Amazon opened a physical clothing store in May, implementing new technology to improve in-person shopping for things an online experience can’t replace.

Luz W. German