Obviously that doesn’t mean mobile phone retail hasn’t been successful. Apple’s stores are some of the most profitable shopping spaces, generating billions of dollars in revenues and more money per square foot than any other retail chain globally. But they are intimidating with their clean lines, sparse décor and minimalist furniture.
This is a retail strategy that I think will have to change as technology like mobile phones and tablets become increasingly popular. Already Tesco has credited the use of “less intimidating” marketing for its Hudl tablet for its sales success.
Mobile phone brands need to throw off this reputation and create a more emotional connection with their customers. One of the best places to start is with the retail experience.
Recent deals by Samsung might well pave the way for a new approach. It has announced a tie-up with Carphone Warehouse to open 60 standalone stores across Europe, including a number in the UK.
These are clearly a direct challenge to Apple, its main rival in the smartphone space. They’ll be kitted out with the usual Samsung white and blue branding and be manned by advisors that can help customers buying a new device or offer help to those having problems.
So far so similar, but the announcement did hint at a “new digital retail experience” for these stores. Maybe this will be a new self-service area that would make buying a new phone or tablet easier for the customers put off by over-enthusiastic teenage staff with sales targets.
Then there is a separate deal with Illy. The partnership between the two will see Samsung provide Illy coffee houses with a selection of Galaxy mobile, tablet and other smart devices for coffee drinkers to play with.
At the time Samsung said the deal also included opening more Illy cafes in locations such as Samsung showrooms. This was announced before the deal with Carphone Warehouse, but tying the two together would seem to make a whole lot of sense.
By putting small coffee shops at the back of Samsung stores, the mobile phone company can provide customers with a much friendlier and less intimidating retail environment to play on Samsung devices. No more standing at benches while a shop assistant leers over your shoulder trying to make a sale.
Instead you can decide if you like Samsung’s newest tablet or smartwatch for yourself over a cup of coffee. Then actually buy one on your way out.
Samsung is the biggest mobile phone and tablet maker globally but I wouldn’t say its brand is loved. This move would help it build an emotional connection with customers. Hopefully it will make the most of the opportunity.