As the future of technology is becoming even more interconnected and complicated, AT&T is trying to stay true to its Beck Bennet-led ‘it’s not complicated’ commercial tagline by showing customers how different pieces of technology work together to simplify your life.
The carrier had earlier this year remodeled its flagship Michigan Avenue store in Chicago, IL to reflect this ideology, and it has since expanded to include almost a dozen more stores throughout the country. AT&T’s new retail concept is born out of two years of research into what shoppers want. Every element of the store is carefully planned and designed, according to AT&T Northern California VP and General Manager Terry Stenzel. Stenzel says that everything from the experience that happens when you walk through the doors to the table height and corners are designed with feedback from focus groups to give customers the best possible experience.
I had recently visited the carrier’s new “Store of the Future” retail experience in Salinas, California just in the outskirts of the Monterey peninsula and had a chance to see AT&T’s new experiential showroom where the focus is on solutions, rather than products and customers are invited to experience the technology.
Gone are the high pressure sales tactics of the past as AT&T now has to compete against Best Buy, Target, and new retail shops from Microsoft and Apple for customer business. You won’t see a cash register in sight, and ‘retail consultants,’ as they are called, will be assisting customers face-to-face and hand-in-hand with a tablet or phone. This inviting experience isn’t unlike that of a Microsoft or Apple store, with a warm wood interior, bright splashes of color, and digital walls with rotating content, and a more personalized level of service.
The carrier knows that if customers choose any of these other competing retail destinations, it will only have a 25 percent chance of winning customers as these rivals also carry products from rival carriers. At AT&T’s store, AT&T is king, and it wants to drive sales home, but in a meaningful way to customers.
The new AT&T is about showing customers the right solutions, with different stations for different platforms (Windows Phone, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android), a learning table where customers can walk-in or schedule appointments to learn more about their new phones, and a more private section towards the rear of the showroom will allow customers to have a more personal discussion on their accounts, billings, and other private inquiries. This Community Zone encourages customers to shop and explore.
There are no brochures, no clutter, and nothing that’s overly complicated. If you have a specific question, you’re invited to talk to a consultant or experience it yourself on a number of demo stations.
At the center of this experiential experiment is a Connected Experience Zone. With the connected experience, customers are invited to have a hands-on experience by connecting various products together to form a solution. It’s a fun experience and AT&T is showing its chops at lifestyle merchandising where customers can pair their phones–or use the demo phones–to test out audio fidelity and volume levels from various speakers. At another station, customers can also try out various cases to see how well they fit and how much protection they offer in another zone.
Rather than trying to push a product to its customers in a one-size-fits-all approach, AT&T is rethinking possible with the new retail experience by providing various solutions that will flow seamlessly into a customer’s lifestyle by showing how pairing phones with fitness or tablets with the home will enhance a customer’s time with technology.
Another table shows off the “Drive In” experience. What is a telephony company doing selling mobile pico projectors? AT&T shows off these palm-sized projectors work with your phone and a portable speaker system to create an ad-hoc mobile theater experience.
And in the Uverse zone, customers are invited to test out Uverse in the home with a home entertainment experience that resembles a living room, complete with TV, surround sound that’s centered towards that zone as to not disturb the entire store, and various Internet and home phone solutions.
Though the store has been opened in less than a month at the Salinas location, retail manager Ryan Snare told me that so far the reception has been positive. By pairing customers up with the right solutions–rather than trying to sell them a product, Snare says that returns have been low.
Though phone buying may be simple for the readers of GottaBeMobile, as technology advances, there will be more questions on how things work. From Minority Report-styled Google Glasses to Dick Tracy inspired smartwatches, the future is fast upon us and AT&T hopes that it could be a place where consumers learn, play, and explore.
More of these stores will be opening up across the nation through the year and AT&T says that it will bring various elements of these experiential retail destinations to existing stores.