Supply Chain Strain: A Deep Dive into Best Buy and Apple Store Performance

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A quick look at Google Reviews across the country for any electronics retailer shows increasing consumer comments about empty shelves and missed opportunities to buy the newest iPhone. Unacast focused on two of the United States’ biggest electronics suppliers to check brand performance during the ongoing 2021 supply chain crisis compared to the same time period in 2019. 

What does consumer behavior look like in the face of increasing turn-away rates at retail locations? 

Unacast’s Venue Data Package gives us a glimpse at an important factor related to the supply chain. If a customer can’t find their desired product at an Electronics supplier, where else are they likely to visit? 

In Q3 2021, +7.5 million visitors to Best Buy also went to a second Best Buy location, a figure far above any other Electronics brand visitation in that period.

In 2019, this figure was +2.8 million visitors, also the highest cross-visitation figure. That’s a 63% increase in inter-brand visits between 2019 and 2021. Apple Store visitors don’t show the same inter-brand visitation. Though Apple Store to Apple Store visits are second most common, in Q3 2021, only +250,000 visitors went to another Apple store.

Over 300,000 visitors visited another Apple store in 2019 but not in 2021, meaning customers are less likely to make a second Apple Store visit from another Apple Store. A sign of better shelf supply?

Q3 2019 vs. 2021 cross-visits for Electronics brands. The gray panel shows a brand with count of cross-visits to either Apple Store (blue) or Best Buy (orange).

Let’s assume a visit to another Electronics store means a consumer is performing due diligence across products, hunting deals, or they just didn’t find what they wanted. It seems Best Buy is most likely to trade customers amongst itself compared to Apple. Where in the country is this happening? 

In the maps below, we looked at 2019 and 2021 Apple Store cross-visitation to either another Apple Store (in yellow), or a Best Buy (in blue). Needs have changed across the years, with Santa Clara county in California seeing a higher level of Apple to Apple visitation, whereas Los Angeles no longer sees this trend by 2021. 

In the Southeast, high levels of cross-visitation to other Apple Stores in 2019 dissipated in Texas, Georgia, and Florida by 2021. 

Apple Stores in Santa Clara County, California may not be meeting the immediate needs of consumers, driving them to other Apple Store locations. But Apple has reduced cross-visitation in Los Angeles, California, and in pockets of Texas, Georgia, and Florida.

How does Best Buy fare with the same comparison? 

Since 2019, Best Buy has pulled consumers away from making any visits to an Apple Store, though more consumers are still visiting a second Best Buy. Apparent 2019 strain in San Jose, California eased in 2021.

Chicago, Illinois showed increased additional Best Buy visits (with a fraction of Apple Store visits making an appearance) across suburban Chicago and into Indiana.  

It appears Best Buy may be keeping consumers engaged, but are there supply and service improvements to be made that could prevent consumers from having to visit another Best Buy location in the same shopping cycle?

We examined how far consumers traveled to reach Best Buy and Apple locations for Q3 2019 and 2021.

In Q3 2021, a majority of consumers traveled over 50 KM in South Portland, Las Vegas, and Honolulu to reach an Apple Store, while the majority of Best Buy visitors traveled within a 5 KM radius all over the country. 

Best Buy is certainly your local neighborhood Electronics brand, but consumers appear more willing to make the effort for an Apple store visit. Is it Apple Genius repair, Apple service, a better range of Apple products, or all three factors driving traffic? 

Distances traveled in Q3 2021 to Best Buy and Apple Store.
Distances traveled in Q3 2019 to Best Buy and Apple Store.

In 2019, Best Buy didn’t demand the same concentration of local traffic compared to 2021. Consumers in Las Vegas were still making long trips to the Apple Store, however (top right panel), and the appearance of two more long-trip locations in Maine and Hawaii in 2021 indicate an opportunity for Apple to drive up local traffic and potentially draw in new consumers. 

Best Buy, meanwhile, may have expanded their local presence but might need to improve their supply management to ensure customers get what they want at the first visit. Does Best Buy’s high level of cross-visitation leave them vulnerable to another Electronics provider swooping in with better supply? 

Read our supply chain piece for deeper insights into how port strain trickled down to behavioral changes in consumer spending and store visitation. We also have data on rising gas prices and gas station usage.

Unacast will continue to monitor how the supply chain is impacting the Electronics industry, especially for top suppliers Best Buy and Apple. Talk to us now about how our Venue Data Package can provide insights for cross-visitation, visit length, consumer origin, and much, much more. 


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