When it comes to wireless, the Millennials are power users. This age group is more likely than average to make 6-10 calls on their mobile phone daily and send numerous text messages. Big box retailer Best Buy Mobile recently embarked on a study to find out more about the Millennials and how they use wireless. Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Best Buy Mobile talked with FierceWireless editor in chief Sue Marek about the study's findings and the company's overall commitment to wireless.
FierceWireless: Why did you decide to conduct this survey?
Moore: As you know, Best Buy Mobile is a partnership of Best Buy and Carphone Warehouse, and Carphone Warehouse has been doing this type of survey for five years. It's fun to look at the differences between the U.S. and Europe and see how people are using their mobile phones differently. We thought it made sense to bring this same idea to the U.S. This is the first year of the survey and we look forward to doing it in years to come.
FierceWireless: Were there big differences between the results in the U.S. and Europe?
Moore: There are always differences. I think if anything there is a sense that American's are far behind the Europeans but I believe we aren't as far behind as people think we are. That gap has narrowed dramatically.
FierceWireless: Wireless carriers are putting a lot of investment into smartphones and phones with touchscreens. How popular do you think those phones are with Millennials? Can they afford to buy these types of phones?
Moore: Yes, they are very popular. There is a cool factor to the phones and it's true for Millennials. We think kids who want these products are finding ways to get them--whether it's through gift cards or wrangling their parents or grandparents.
FierceWireless: One of the survey findings is that one in five Millennials are sending more than 16 texts per day. But you don't really need a smart phone to text. Is texting their primary use of the phone or are they surfing the web and using the other functions?
Moore: I think if they are on an unlimited text plan that is the incentive for that behavior and data plans are more expensive. So I think that is the root. But the nature of the communication--they are short, sweet and fun--I get through them in a day. I don't always get through all my emails. The medium really resonates with this group. They have grown up with it. They aren't learning how to text.
I would come back to the fact that in everything we do, whether a smart phone or no contract phone, it all starts with acknowledgement of a truth about the marketplace. People would rather go to the dentist than buy a mobile phone. If you think about that--it's crazy. We can create a good experience for buying something that is so important to you.
Best Buy has focused on the experience and making it great. That is where the growth has come from. The truth about mobile phone buying is that you have to have all the right phones and plans in one place. You have to have people that know what they are talking about--for us that's well-trained non-commissioned sales people. And it's pricing. And it's a commitment to be there for the life of your phone. It's a combination of all these things.
FierceWireless: You've made a lot of strides in the mobile world. Being the first third party retailer to offer the iPhone 3G seems like a significant milestone. How are sales going?
Moore: The iPhone 3G helped remind America that you can buy a mobile phone at Best Buy. It was on the heels of the successful launch of the Samsung Instinct. Sprint spent a lot of money promoting it and we were the exclusive national retail channel at launch. Over the course of the year we have steadily been building momentum. We had a great promotion with BlackBerry in May with all BlackBerry phones across networks were on sale. That had never been done before. We had a strong launch of the Instinct and a strong launch of the iPhone. We are the place where you can come in the U.S. and stand and see the iPhone, the Instinct, the Bold from AT&T and the Storm from Verizon. Those are hot phones.
Another differentiator is that you might walk in thinking you want a BlackBerry but after you talk to our team you might find you should actually have the Instinct. The benefit is that we have a program that you can walk out with a working phone and all your data and contact information is transferred for free. Some retailers won't do it. Some will do it and charge for it.
FierceWireless: Not all retailers have focused so heavily on wireless. How has this wireless focus helped the company?
Moore: We looked around a saw a few years ago and saw that we could make a difference here. Once we did the work of figuring out this business, we scaled quickly because we saw the opportunity to help customers.
FierceWireless: How does the open wireless network vision, i.e., wireless carriers letting all devices on their networks, help third-party retailers?
Moore: That is a global trend. It was a big question for us in the beginning--should we include unlocked phones in our portfolio? And the answer was: if there is customer demand for it, we should sell it. We have had unlocked phones in our assortments for two years. Our biggest assortment of unlocked phones is in our new Mobile Life stores. We have three unique standalone stores--in Minneapolis, Chicago and D.C. We set up stores that start and work from the cell phone outward. The cell phone is the most personal device and we build around that. We have laptops that are ultra-mobile, GPS, tools to personalize your phone and a station that focuses on Sling Media.
FierceWireless: What have you learned so far about holiday cell phone sales?
Moore: One thing that was very exciting was Black Friday. This year, you had people lining up at 3 a.m.--that's actually pretty normal. What was surprising is that people were lining up to get a cell phone. That is crazy. In year's past we didn't sell our first phone until 8 a.m. This signals that mobile phones are must-have gifts for this holiday season.