Best Buy’s Revamped Loyalty Program and the Value of Mobile Check-in

Oct 1, 2013

Good things come to those who wait – including Best Buy’s 40+ million Reward Zone® loyalty program members.  Earlier this month, the electronics retailer announced a revamp of their program, starting with the program’s name change to ‘My Best Buy.’

It’s the type of brand refresh many verticals implement when they feel their loyalty program has gotten stale or competition from others has grown fierce (see: As we have written on our blog, this is particularly true of restaurants, which are scrambling to attract, engage and retain customers as lines continue to blur between fast casual and quick service dining.

Best Buys Revamped Loyalty Program and the Value of Mobile CheckinMy Best Buy offers new perks and customer rewards that can potentially enhance the brand’s loyalty experience. Some of these rewards predate the official re-launch, but they were undoubtedly part of Best Buy’s push to improve offerings for members, including:

  • Free shipping on Best Buy orders over $25
  • Advance notice of hottest deals and early access to special sales
  • Member-only access to special shopping events
  • 5% back in rewards with a My Best Buy credit card
  • Bonus points and special promotions for in-store mobile check-in

While these are all great ways to engage members and encourage upsell, the last bullet is probably the most important, the reason being Best Buy’s mobile app also offers gamified elements such as in-store product scavenger hunts – while allowing program members to add price alerts for the products they want.

Best Buy’s decision to embrace mobile check-in – and engage mobile customers by requiring them to open an app has come at an interesting time:

  • The latest Pew research finds that only 12% of consumers use mobile check-in, down from 18% in February 2012.
  • Even so, 74% of US smartphone owners use their phones in a variety of location-based ways, including reminders to purchase an item the next time they’re in a store.
  • Foursquare averaged 6 million check-ins during April 2013, up from 4 million in January 2012 – a 50% increase.

With such mixed signals, some loyalty experts say the age of physical mobile check-in has passed. According to David Paterson, CEO of mobile marketing software and service provider Sense Networks , more passive forms of mobile check-in – such as simply enabling apps’ location features – are quickly becoming more popular.For customers an, “auto” check-in is easier than opening an app and doesn’t interfere with their in-store experience, making it less cumbersome.

This critique however, doesn’t appreciate traditional mobile check-in on a case-by-case basis. Consider the Best Buy in-store experience, much of which centers on physically examining products. Customers hold products in their hands or sit in plush leather chairs facing mammoth HD TVs, imagining how their home theater will look and feel. This level of product and salesperson interactivity lends itself to a more active mobile experience. Best Buy’s loyal customers expect an in-store experience that involves most of their senses. So, is taking an extra second to physically open an app for store check-in really that onerous?

I don’t think so.

Mobile check-in has proven popular in other verticals too, including fast casual restaurants. One of Kobie’s clients, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, awards its loyalty program customers up to six points a day just for checking in at one of its locations and posting their whereabouts to Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare.

However, mobile check-in’s greatest advantage is enabling brands to push customized offers and messages to its loyalty program members. Mobile apps gather information that help brands tailor product offers and combat showrooming. The more an offer speaks to an individual customer’s needs, the less likely they are to use a mobile device as a tool that can undermine the brick-and-mortar experience.

As a Best Buy Reward Zone Premier Silver® member (now known as Elite Plus under the My Best Buy name), I’m encouraged by the brand’s latest developments and am eager to see what else is in store beyond name changes and mobile check-in capabilities. Best Buy, founded in 1966 as Sound of Music, is no stranger to re-branding or name changes as a way to spark excitement and consumer interest. Time and again, Best Buy has remained ahead of the customer loyalty curve and has known when to upgrade its offerings. Hopefully, its most recent efforts will be a model others emulate.

Are you a loyalty program manager? What are your thoughts on mobile check-in as an effective engagement tool? Beyond points and product scavenger hunts, what additional mobile services is your brand considering? Let us know in the comments below or email us at