Can Best Buy reinvent the mobile buying experience?

Most consumers would rather visit the dentist than buy a new mobile phone. That rather enlightening (and depressing) anecdote is just one of the reasons that Best Buy Mobile thinks it has a shot at becoming a leading retailer of wireless devices. The company currently has just a small percentage of the market share in cellular phone sales, but it hopes to grow that significantly over the next few years.

Yesterday at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment conference, I spoke with Scott Moore, Best Buy Mobile's vice president of marketing and strategy, about the company's inroads in the mobile retail space and why he believes they have such a strong retail proposition. Although carrier-branded stores have come a long way in improving the retail experience, Moore says that consumers want impartial, informed sales advice and they don't believe that's what they are getting when they walk into a carrier store. To help consumers comparison shop, Best Buy has produced a buyer's guide that it keeps in its stores that lists devices, carriers and prices and rate plans. Moore says that buyers often leave the store with the guide in their hands so that they can make a better buying decision.

But now the company is taking its customer-friendly service to the next level with the debut of the mIQ, a Web site that lets consumers manage their content online. They can organize their contact lists and back up their photos. The service works on more than 200 phones, including BlackBerry, Symbian Series 60 and Windows Mobile. Better yet, the service is free. Moore said that the company wants to use this tool to build its relationship with consumers and increase its leadership in the retail space. Eventually, mIQ could include other things, such as application purchases similar to an App Store. But for now the company is content to see how much traction mIQ will get with its customers. The site official launches Monday.

I think Best Buy Mobile is on the right retail path and this latest Web site debut could be exactly what the consumer needs to help  manage and navigate the complex smartphone space. --Sue

P.S.  I've been getting lots of emails from readers at home who were not able to attend this year's CTIA Wireless IT show. So here's a rundown of the Fierce editorial team's impressions of the show so far:

  • Traffic on the show floor has been steady, but there is little "buzz." We aren't hearing any startling news announcements. Verizon Wireless and Google stole the thunder on Tuesday when they announced their partnership.
  • The press room hasn't been it's usual crowded bustling place. In fact, no one is fighting over chairs or having difficulty getting an Internet connection.
  • The drinks are still flowing, but the cocktail parties have been noticeably light when it comes to food. The days of sushi buffets, unlimited shrimp and amazing desserts are over--at least for now.   

In fact, we've got a few slideshows queued up to help convey the general mood from the show:

Click here for an "on the ground" look at the show floor, and some of the conference's after-show parties.

And click here for a look at the phones of CTIA.