How quickly tides turn. Not that long ago, Best Buy looked upon Amazon and Google with disdain, angry that “showrooming” customers were coming into Best Buy stores just to look at products that they would then — sometimes while in the store — purchase online for less. Now Amazon and Google have turned to Best Buy to showroom their growing array of devices.
Best Buy announced today that it would open Amazon Alexa and Google Home “experience stores” in 700 locations across the country this year.
The mini-stores, located near the smart home department, are intended to allow customers to explore “what’s possible with voice technology” with the help of specially trained Geek Squad agents and other employees.
Customers can test out the latest features available with Google Home and Amazon Echo’s Alexa, along with the products that work with the systems, like Nest thermostats, Philips Hue lighting, and Insignia’s smart plugs.
“In collaboration with Amazon and Google, these experiences will help people understand and use this groundbreaking technology to make their lives safer, easier and simply more fun,” Amy College, senior vice president of merchandising at Best Buy, said in a statement.
The new in-store experiences are Best Buy’s way of ensuring the company has a foothold in the connected-home business, one of the fasted growing categories in tech.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that IHS Markit projects that by 2021 there will be more than 220 million devices globally controlled by a voice assistant.
Of course, the Best Buy displays aren’t the only place you’ll be able to test out Amazon or Google’s voice-controlled products. Amazon’s physical book stores and planned pop-up stores have served as a way for the company to showcase its devices.