circuit city Several years back it looked like Circuit City was really spiraling downward. Their business model was outdated (commission-based), they suffered some losses from a few bad moves like the DIVX fiasco and in-house appliance sales, and it seemed like the company was really losing market share.

In the last few years they have gone through a bit of restructuring, had gotten quite a bit of a facelift and once again seems poised to give Best Buy (17% market share) a run for its money.

They took some bold moves in the process, like offering customer reviews of all their products on CircuitCity.com. Best Buy must still fear a supplier backlash because they are not offering that feature to this day, which is a shame. Amazon has been doing this for years successfully, so I don’t know why a major chain wouldn’t.

I believe the next step should be bringing those reviews right into the store. They should setup either a number of kiosks that allow you to look up any shelf product or offer a “shopping companion” handheld device that allows you to scan any product and read the aggregated customer ratings and reviews for that product.

What made me think of this? I went to Best Buy yesterday to buy a printer for my mom. I wanted one with decent quality and low ink replacement costs. All the associates were busy and after waiting for 10 minutes I left and drove to Circuit City. I asked if I could get some help with printers and was told an associate will be right with me. After 10-15 minutes of waiting I got annoyed and left. I will now purchase it online.

Both stores lost that sale because no one could help me and I am too busy to wait half an hour for an associate who may or may not know the answer to my question. If I only had a connection (from a kiosk or a handheld) where I could browse socially-tagged and aggregated reviews, I would have made my decision based on other people’s experiences, without a paid associate’s help.

I think that’s the holy grail of retail stores – bridging the gap between online reviews / socially aggregated information and the physical store where you can instantly buy the product. How about it Circuit City? You have the data – just bring it into the store.