What’s the future of the iPad and 3DTV? What tech does a guy like Mike Pratt use on a daily basis? How will Best Buy stay a relevant player in the software space at a time when more consumers are acquiring it all digitally? Find out these answers, and more, in this exclusive Q&A.
Sync: As the president of Best Buy Canada, it would be interesting to know what piece of technology you’re most excited about in 2010 and why? The iPad? 3DTV? Project Natal?
Mike Pratt: That’s a tough one, Marc. Since the CES [Consumer Electronics Show] in January there’s been month-over-month of fantastic new products being announced. From both a personal and business standpoint, for me it would most likely be three particular products — the iPad, 3DTV and of course Microsoft Office 2010. Each of these products will impact the way I work and connect this year.
I think the iPad is going to be felt by consumers right away, whatever you might be using it for. It’s just a lot of fun and is the first of many tablets sure to amaze this year.
3DTV is an incredible breakthrough but it’s going to take a little longer for it to move into the mainstream, when there’s more video and gaming content available to consumers.
Sadly, I can’t say too much about gaming right now – I just never seem to have the time!
Sync: Going back to the iPad for a moment, what does the iPad phenomenon mean for Best Buy as a consumer electronics retailer?
Pratt: I think what we’re really seeing is about more than just iPad. I really think we’re seeing the emergence of the Tablet and what that will mean for consumers. I read a great article about this a few months back in WIRED and I definitely think the emerging Tablet space is going to be a game-changing piece of technology because of its ability to leverage portability and wireless connectivity in ways it wasn’t able to just a few years ago.
Sync: OK, so were you always a techie? What’s one gadget you can’t live without today?
Pratt: You know, it’s actually just the opposite. I was never what you might consider a full-on techie. My passion for technology is really more about how it works for people and how it makes their daily lives better.
That being said, there’s a lot of technology I rely on each day. My smartphone is critical to how I manage my day and stay connected to my family when I travel. I send a lot of MMS content when I’m working out in the field and away from the office. Being connected is really important to me.
But to answer your question, if I had to choose one item I’d be lost without – that’s easy. The Raymarine Chart Plotter. It’s a navigational tool I use whenever I’m able to get out onto my boat. Yeah, I’d definitely be lost without that one!
Sync: How are you driving the company forward? Do you work closely with Best Buy in the U.S. or do you prefer to venture out into other directions?
Pratt: We have a fantastic working relationship with the U.S. and both sides try to engage and share ideas with one another as much as possible. Our mandate is to remain focused on ROIC [Return On Invested Capital] as much as possible, and that’s where a lot of my day-to-day decision making is based around.
That being said, we have a lot of autonomy to try different strategies as well. We’re a much smaller organization by comparison, and we’re much nimbler by design.
Our company leaders try to leverage that position and explore new ventures wherever possible while keeping a close on eye what’s working south of the border, too.
Sync: Finally, I’m curious how a retailer like Best Buy will handle the increased demand for digital content. One day we might be consuming all of our media digitally — be it music, movies, books and games — so where does that leave the blue shirts?
Pratt: There’s no question that digital content is the new frontier of retail in our space. We’re taking a very strategic approach first and we’re analyzing the players in the market already, how it’s working for them as well as how consumers are responding to it.
We recently made an exciting digital content play with “Best Buy CinemaNow.” Canadian consumers are definitely moving towards downloading their favourite music, TV shows and films, and we want to be able to offer them a great digital selection when they do. You’ll be hearing a lot more about how this will work in Canada soon.
Now, what will this mean for Blue Shirts? We see this as a really good thing. The content is key – but still only part of the equation for us. We’re ensuring that we’ve also got the latest content readers and devices consumers are demanding so they’re able to view that content on their terms and make it fit into their lives.
That’s where our Blue Shirts come in – whether they’re helping customers in store, in our online community or even Twitter through our Twelpforce program, it’s all about building a great relationship with them so we can help connect their technology with their content and improve the experience they have with it in their daily lives.