Where Best Buy Gamers Club Went Wrong

Just to clarify, this is purely an opinion piece that represents my thoughts and my thoughts alone.  I enjoyed all of these benefits as much as the next person, but these are my ideas as to how GCU (Gamers Club Unlocked) could have avoided dissolving like half of the universe...

Best Buy's Gamers Club Unlocked is (was) a gaming discount program above and beyond their free rewards offering that helped gamers get more bang for their buck.  You would receive 20% off of new (as in not 'pre-owned') video game software, 10% bonus trade-in on video game software, 10% off pre-owned games, and a variety of other point-based benefits.  In its final form, it would cost you $30 for 2 years, and you could stack the subscription for multiple years (as this writer is now seeing in perfect hindsight). 

Best Buy killed this program just a week ago (mid-May 2018), probably due to its overall lack of profitability.  Even with the massive buying power of Best Buy, they only average about $10 in margin off of a $60 launch, where as GCU would give a deep $12 discount.  It doesn't take a genius to realize this business model doesn't sound great once it's been adopted (and is being regularly used by the masses).  I want to take a look at some of the shortcomings of GCU and share my thoughts as to why it was discontinued.

 

No limit on purchases:

GCU advertised that you could purchase, at most, three (3) of any one title using this benefit.  This writer knows, for absolute certainty, this was not inforced or limited by the register.  My GCU history has at least 5 purchases of Breath of the Wild and 4 of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe  (and Splatoon 2... and Mario Odyssey... I digress) on record and never once was there any problem or hesitation with purchasing them.  I truly believe if this was intended to be a one user account, I would not have minded there being a hard lock of one of any unique SKU (Best Buy item number) to discourage this behavior.  You may wonder why anyone would be purchasing 5 copies of one title, but that leads me directly to my next point...

Very easily used by friends:

Any single person, nationwide, with the phone number attached to your GCU enhanced rewards account could use your GCU benefits.  There was no check of ID, no check of permission, nothing.  Granted, you'd be giving your friend all of the rewards points but that's hardly a downside compared to the 20% you were about to save on every title on the transaction.  I have been (and will continue to be, until my current subscription runs out) very liberal with allowing friends to use my GCU account, because sharing is caring!

Too inexpensive:

$30 for 2 years is (was) a steal of a deal! Strictly speaking from new $60 titles, after 3 purchases you've already saved $36 and any money gained by Best Buy has already been lost.  For every person out there that maybe bought it on a whim and only used it once in their 2 year subscription (giving Best Buy a smooth $18 in free margin), there was someone like me who was accounting for 2 discounted sales a month, totaling for over $500 in savings over the 2 years at a steep loss to Best Buy.  Looking back, I would have easily paid $30 - $50 a year for this benefit, and I think there are a bunch of gamers out there that would agree.

Stacked with sales:

Oh boy, this was the sweetest of the benefits.  That game you've had on eye on but couldn't pull the trigger at $60 ($48 with GCU) just go on sale for $40?   How's $32 sound, due to your GCU membership?  Godly.  This was probably where Best Buy was losing the most money.  Yes, a lot of these deals are backed by vendors but losing an ADDITIONAL $8-$10 due to GCU couldn't have been accounted for across the board.  This is a little bit of a gray area, though, as I think that legitimate price drops should have always been stackable with GCU, but when you can capitalize on a one day sale (excluding Black Friday deals) with an additional 20%, that's painful to any company's bottom line.

Never upsold:

This last one is a bit meta and comes down to the challenges of a brick and mortar store that is constantly re-inventing their labor model; gaming employees were not there consistently to try and get more value out of your visit to the store.  There's no doubt that GCU was designed to get people INTO Best Buy as opposed to their competitors, knowing they'd take a loss on a game-only sale.  Of course, people would sometimes wander around the store and pick up an occasional item or inquire about their next future purchase, but there were also people (like me) that would walk in, grab the game I need, and head right up front.  I know first hand that there is plenty of training done within Best Buy to try to convince the customer buying one low-margin item to buy literally anything that would generate more profit, but the bodies just were not, and are not, available (or willing) to do that in gaming.  The initiative to capitalize on gamers just isn't there and it's very apparent.

 

I recognize that this is not a comprehensive list of everything that was "wrong" with GCU from a business perspective, but just a few thoughts I had being a member for as long as I have been.  I'm going to miss GCU when my subscription expires and this undoubtedly will change my purchasing habits going forward.  Buying video games was the one reason I consistently went to my local Best Buy, and without that (plus the purchasing power I have on Amazon), I don't know how often I'll visit my once favorite store.  Best Buy will certainly come out with some new gamer benefit program tied into one of their higher-end (see: very expensive) Tech Support/Geek Squad offerings, but it won't be the same, it will be very expensive, and it won't be something for me.

Did I miss anything?  Comment below and let me know what you think Best Buy could have done or should have done to save our favorite gaming discount program.  Or tell me why I'm completely wrong, whichever floats your boat.

Joshua Testasecca