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Best Buy Beta launches, competes against Amazon

Photo credit: Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr

It’s not much of a mystery that online marketplace Amazon has taken a competitive edge over electronics store chain Best Buy. In the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, Amazon earned $7.2 billion compared to Best Buy’s $816 million in the same quarter. With 126 million Amazon Prime loyalty members, the e-commerce site has a steady rotation of customers that other online retailers simply don’t. But could the new Best Buy Beta program make some consumers revisit that bright yellow price tag sign again (and not just because they’re Team Lawrence from “Insecure”) for their electronic needs?

According to Best Buy’s official corporate blog, the $199.99 per year ($179.99 per year for Best Buy credit card holders) Best Buy Beta membership includes the following:

  • free shipping for online items (no minimum amount)
  • extended return window (60 days)
  • exclusive membership sales
  • Unlimited Geek Squad technical support
  • two-year warranty protection on products from Best Buy, including AppleCare and Apple products
  • free in-home standard delivery and installation on most Best Buy purchases

While Amazon largely dominates the online marketplace against popular retailers for everything from food to office supplies to everyday household needs, Best Buy has one leg up on the “Relentless” company: tech support and in-person installation.

2020’s highs and lows for Best Buy versus Amazon

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 worldwide outbreak and store closings, Best Buy furloughed approximately 51,000 hourly employees and cut executive pay in April. Meanwhile Amazon hired more than 100K more workers during the worldwide health pandemic.

As stores re-opened and sales increased, CNBC reports that at least half of Best Buy’s workers returned. However, during the bulk of 2020, customer service, shipping and available stock were all becoming obstacles for Best Buy customers to use the subsidiary company Geek Squad. An average repair that would usually take 10 days to two weeks was estimated in 2020 to take anywhere from nine to 12 weeks. The longer wait time and less stock in their warehouses was great news for local, less popular electronics and computer repair stores who may have seen an uptick in business.

While electronic repairs were never Amazon’s bread and butter, the Best Buy Beta program may be bad news again for 2020 small electronics repair companies. If it works out well, it could also result in consumers purchasing office supplies and electronics in the beta program with the free shipping and no minimum option. (Amazon Prime requires $25 of eligible items in order to ship for free.)

Total Tech Support versus Geek Squad: What’s the difference?

For consumers who are confused about the difference between Geek Squad and the Total Tech Support program, the primary difference is the Geek Squad protection plan is covered during the manufacturer warranty window and does not cover at-fault damage. However, the 3-Year Accidental Geek Squad Protection covers at-fault issues such as accidental damage to small appliances, laptops, security cameras, etc.

Meanwhile, the Total Tech Support covers all technology in your home, regardless of where it was purchased. This is in addition to 24/7 online and phone support, or in the stores.

As of now, the Best Buy Beta program is currently available at select stores throughout Iowa, Oklahoma and eastern Pennsylvania. In April, it will broaden to a total of 60 stores, including in Minnesota, North Carolina and Tennessee.

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