How Magnolia Overhauled its In-Store Demo System

Best Buy picks affordable, software-based, cloud-enabled iRule to run audio demos in 470 Magnolia stores.

Julie Jacobson
Photos & Slideshow
View the slideshow View the slideshow

Magnolia, the custom installation arm of Best Buy, needed an automation system to help customers and salespeople operate audio demos in the listening rooms of roughly 470 Magnolia stores.

They picked iRule, because “there wasn’t anyone else that was multi-platform, flexible enough and affordable,” says Brent Newman, Senior Manager of Technology Design for Best Buy, in an interview with CI sister publication CE Pro.

“We wanted something flexible, modular, something we could easily change out and that wasn’t hardware-driven,” he says.

In the Magnolia implementation of iRule, the user has a smart tablet that replicates visually the display in the store, which consists of multiple speakers and components (take the tour here).

The iRule system uses iOS and Android devices as interfaces, a combination of local and cloud-based services for control, and flexible adapters or dongles (about $100 each) to operate devices via IR, IP, RS-232 or relay communications.

To select a speaker and/or source, the user simply touches the image(s) on the smart tablet. LEDs in the showroom light up to show the products selected – a feature also enabled by iRule.

Newman says that Magnolia itself – not iRule – built the interface in about three weeks, with iRule doing only “a couple of custom things to it.” That Magnolia themselves could program the system was an important consideration for selecting iRule, since products in the showroom can be rearranged or swapped out at any time.

Compared to the last demo system Magnolia was using, “we reduced the change-out time by 90 percent,” says Newman.

Although customers themselves can operate the demo system, it is primarily meant for employees. From the same interface they use for demos, they can easily pull up more details on any given product.

“If you can’t get the employee experience down, you can’t get the customer experience,” says Newman.

Experience the demo in the slideshow.