Best Buy Co. hopes to sell a lot of iPad 2s and Samsung Galaxy Tabs this year, investing millions of dollars into training employees and designing Tablet Central section at its stores.
But when it comes to its own apps for tablets, the company literally shrinks from the task. Download the latest Best Buy app for the iPad 2 and you will essentially see a small smartphone screen superimposed on the tablet screen. You can zoom in but that messes with the resolution.
It's not just about aesthetics. Users, which rated the app two out of five stars, are complaining the app constantly freezes and cashes. Others say they can't access their wish lists or the price of products changes by the time you reach checkout.
"C'mon...you're the big boys, get a BIG BOY APP," wrote Diamantopoulous. "Ever take a peek at [Target's] app?"
I first got word of Best Buy's app during an interview with author Avinash Kaushik, who also moonlights as a "Digital Marketing Evangelist" for Google. The best I can tell, that means Kaushik preaches the value of the Internet and social media to companies on Google's behalf.
As you can probably imagine, most companies do a rather poor job at connecting technology to their businesses, he said. To prove his point, Kaushik recalled a recent conference in which he showed the audience a major retailer's app on the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Guess which retailer?
"It was astonishingly bad," Kaushik told me. "It used less than 20 percent of the [device's] real estate, which makes it hard to buy anything. It's inexcusable."
I ran this by Jeremy Baier,a spokesman at Best Buy. Here's Baier's response via e-mail:
You asked about our reaction to the MIMA presentation made by Avinash Kaushik, during which he critiqued a number of local company apps, including Best Buy’s. Several of our colleagues were actually at this presentation, and thought it was great. It helped affirm some of the improvements Best Buy is already making, and also reinforced that these experiences need to be constantly upgraded and improved as consumers adopt new mobile platforms like smart phones and tablets.
UPDATE: Baier tells me that the company recently released a new optimized version of bestbuy.com that tablet users can access through their browsers, the first of a series of "evolutions" to the site. It appears Best Buy has chosen to focus on its browser experience rather than develop an optimal app for tablets, though the retailer designed one for smartphones.
Frankly, Best Buy's faulty tablets apps are surprising, given its reputation as a technology-savvy company with deep experience in multi-channel retailing.
But web retailing experts say that traditional bricks and mortar companies continue to struggle because their businesses, whether physical stores, website, call centers, or mobile devices, operate in silos, making integration and coordination next to impossible. Often these units compete with each for resources.
In Best Buy's case, the retailer spared no expense in making sure the stores effectively sell tablets. But as the key holiday shopping season approaches, the company has yet to release an app optimized for the very devices they are trying to sell.
Best Buy executives have told me that the first competitors to the iPad failed because they lack vibrant apps for their tablets. It's not just about selling hardware, they told me, but rather creating the right "ecosystem" around the device like software and content.
It's advice that Best Buy itself should certainly follow.