Tale of two flagships

 

telstraThe pace of change in retail technology was brought home to me last week when some work colleagues and I paid a visit to the newly opened Telstra Discovery Store flagship in George St, Sydney.

We then visited the Samsung Experience Store a few doors down that opened in August 2012, which in some ways seemed basic by comparison. To be fair the Sydney Samsung store was the first of its kind in Australia for Samsung, so we would expect subsequent iterations to be tweaked.

Here we’re going to take a quick look at what we found in the two stores, indirectly covering the information, education, environment, and entertainment elements of Dr AK Pradeep’s seven shopping experience dimensions.

TELSTRA DISCOVERY STORE
Large, interactive, and subtly informative

Impactful entry

The store is a bit like Doctor Who’s Tardis – it looks small and unprepossessing from the outside, but is large and packs a punch inside.

Once inside, given this was week two of the store’s opening, the red carpet, velvet rope and curtains were laid out, literally.

A bit confused, we had to ask if we had wandered into a private function by mistake (being 5pm on a Wednesday) but no, this was bunged on for the regular punters to “celebrate our new store”. A concierge directs shoppers to the area of the store they are interested in.

Promotional ambassadors dished out Magnum ice creams in return for five minutes of your time to watch a personalised demonstration of the new Samsung Note 4 features. One of our crew who showed special interest in the product also scored movie tickets.

Bright, light, and easy to move through, but some navigation elements missing

The store has a circular format that encourages both browsing and movement, and is loosely split in two on the ground level (the first floor is not yet open), with products taking up the first two thirds of the store and the remaining third being service, transactions, and a tech bar.

There are a number of subtle transaction points throughout the store, being beige cubes with white lettering, but at the time of visit few of these cubes were staffed.

The staff focus was on the entrance and service areas – one assumes that if you stand at the service cubes looking hopeful, a staff member would appear in time.

The store is very brightly lit overall and major departmental navigation signage is up in lights such as Tech Bar and Play & Learn.

Sub-departments such as audio (speakers and headphones) are only made clear by looking at the products themselves (and this is a world where everything is similarly black and silver and shiny).

Some of these sub-departments could have done with eye level signage, while the purpose of a weird business nook, located next to the Tech Bar and containing either intentional or unintentional home and office items, wasn’t at all clear.

Tap and Take Info BackInformation and elements of discovery

True to the technology-based nature of the product, this is a store where there’s no paper or cardboard. Price tickets are digital.

Customers select product information via tap and take cards. These were interesting. It wasn’t immediately evident how they worked, as placing the card over the disc shaped reader icon next to the product didn’t immediately beep or flash (and like most typical shoppers we hadn’t read the instructions, in small print, on the back of the card).

Comparison sandbox 2We found a staff member to ask how it worked. Basically, you tap the icon on the screen next to the product whose information you are interested in, touch the card to the disc reader and the light flashes on the disc when the info is stored. You take the card with you and download the info in your own time by logging onto the Telstra site and plugging in the code on the back of the card.

We got ours back to the office and it worked perfectly [see screen grab]. Great idea to save lugging brochures around, but the cards’ availability and instructions could have been communicated a little more overtly in the store.

A highlight was an interactive product comparison table in the Play & Learn section. Telstra apparently dub this the ‘Sandbox’, but its giant flat glass top reminded me more of an air hockey table. You place devices onto the table and up pops a number of ratings for various elements – screen, performance, battery, etc [see pic]. You can tap on each element for further information, or place multiple devices side by side to compare ratings. Neat.

A small gaming station sporting Foxtel and PS4 was located next to the Sandbox. A punter was playing a game at time of visit, I suspect this station would be full at lunchtimes.

Telstra wearable tech where's the infoOne missed opportunity was wearable technology table [see pic]. Given this is one of the fastest growing tech categories and the interactive nature of the rest of the store, it was a surprise that these devices were turned off, tethered so you couldn’t try them on, and had no product info  not even tap and take, that we could see). A smaller version of the Sandbox would have been great here.

Overall

The role of the store is clearly exploratory, as its name implies, and it’s definitely a move on from existing telco store formats. Some of the discovery elements could be called out more overtly. The high tech feel is definitely suited to a CBD location. Worth a look.

SAMSUNG
Smaller footprint, traditional layout and merchandising

While being bright and light, this store’s small footprint, for a flagship, unfortunately limits its opportunities in a number of ways. The primary one is inability to showcase the full range of Samsung products, including home entertainment and appliances.

Samsung entry

Samsung entry

For example, exterior signage at the entry using digital screens [see pic] wasn’t carried through instore to a range of TV screens, particularly the new curved screens.

In a CBD location with affluent shoppers this store would theoretically be a great location to showcase the latest big screens, and the connectivity of devices to those screens.

To a lesser extent, the same applies to home appliances such as washing machines, which although taking up space, provide both awareness and give confidence in the breadth of the Samsung range. (We have consistently found in shopper research that a manufacturer’s presence in one category has a halo effect on other categories they play in due to trust).

Back to the entry. In this store, Note4 was promoted via metallic blue balloons (that we also noticed in the Optus store opposite). No Magnum ice creams here.

The layout is fairly traditional, with a series of island benches sporting product information on paper under perspex next to each product.

But on the plus side, wearables were switched on and working. Staff were more proactive than in the Telstra store, but this was partially due to there being fewer shoppers in the store and the existing shoppers were more visible in the smaller space.

Overall

A traditional store, not yet living up to its Experience name. We hear that Samsung is opening updated iterations of its Experience stores in Asia, and it will be interesting to see which elements trickle down here.

*Disclaimer: author’s experience not necessarily representative of all stores in the chain as is based on that store on that day.

Norrelle Goldring is head of shopper insight and retail strategy at GfK. Call Norrelle on 0437 335 686 or email norrelle.goldring@gfk.com.

telstra

Telstra store ‘sandbox’

IMG-20141105-00348

Telstra store

Samsung store

Samsung store

 

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