Let’s face the facts, it’s a tough job to be a retailer these days. Competition is fierce, customers are demanding, and product margins are razor thin. Just when retailers finally get that product into a customers hand and out the door, it can come marching right back into the store as a return. In fact, studies estimate there are tens of billions of dollars worth of product returned back to retailers, and very small percentage of those are actually defective. This means that brick and mortar retailers have plenty of fully functional open box products gathering dust on shelves and are missing an opportunity to get these units back into the hands of customers.
All of our local Best Buy stores are challenged with returned products. Our physical stores can be silos of beneficial product data, especially when it comes to the availability and reduced price scenarios presented by open box products. Up to this point, our open box items have not been openly displayed on the web — we tend to focus on new, unopened products, leaving an huge unmet opportunity at the store level to increase web visibility to returned products.
While this seems like a large problem to tackle, we have found a forward-thinking way to increase the visibility of open box items at our local stores using the power of open source software and open front-end semantic data standards without employing traditional marketing tactics to push individuals toward these products. Earlier this month, we began rolling out the capability for store associates to contribute to the web of data while increasing visibility to their local open box products through a simple WordPress plugin and RDFa templating mechanism. Each Best Buy store is empowered via their local store WordPress blog (background here) to enter the SKUs of the open box products they have in their inventory. The plugin fetches the relevant product data using Best Buy’s Remix API and the user is prompted to enter the open box price and a reason the product was returned. With one last click, the user saves the data and the product is published to the store site, is made available to the semantic web through front-end RDFa templates and auto-generated XML sitemaps.
There are some interesting features, techniques and potential outcomes of this work that are worth discussing: