I’m quite certain many of you have already heard about Microsoft’s plans to open actual retail stores this fall.
I’d like to say I think that’s an awesome idea. There have been some critics in the comments section of the articles I’ve read, that claim this is a wasted venture; because they think Microsoft’s main products (Windows and Office) and a few other things would make a pretty weak store that probably will fail. Also, because it’s Microsoft, the store will be a bad copy of the Apple Store and such.
A Microsoft retail store might fail if the honchos at Redmond make a messy attempt at doing a direct retail experience. If they make a store that’s very similar to the Sony Style store, it probably won’t last. Here’s ways how MS could probably fail:
- Selling only a few products – Windows & Office can be bought anywhere, as well as Xboxes and Zunes. I doubt people will make a special trip just to get these.
- Bad store layout & ugly displays – Nobody likes stores where the layout is strange and items are scattered in places they wouldn’t seem. Displays with not enough lighting, or placards too wordy or too scarce in info., dusty shelves, bent or damaged products, etc. are not wonderful to look at
- Awful customer service – If employees annoy me too much, or they aren’t quick at helping me with an issue or question, then I’m out of there
- Bad location – If it’s in a really boring area, or a seedy area, I really don’t see why I should make a special trip out there.
- Too expensive – If items are way too expensive, and the store never gives special discounts at all, then it’s not worth it
So with that said, I’m hoping Microsoft retail stores won’t be like that. Instead, I envision these store to be something like this:
I’d like to see it be called something nice and simple. The Microsoft Store or MicroStore would be pretty good. I like MicroStore better because it sounds more original and easier to say.
The theme or style of the place should be sleek and modern, because Microsoft is a tech company. I’d like to see black walls, brushed aluminum accents, prevalent blue background lighting, lots of white martini lights, shelves and racks made of light wood, beanbags, plush stools and ottomans, engraved steel signage, and maybe some posters on the wall. HDTV’s will be displayed in parts of the store describing the features and benefits of the product, as well as perhaps tips and how-to guides.
The store should be divided into the following zones with each purpose:
- PC & Mac Zone – This zone will have really nice midrange to top-of-the-line PC’s available running the latest versions of Windows, Office, Windows Live suite, and other various Microsoft software. HDTV’s will display many unique and wonderful features of several Microsoft software, with Windows, Office, and Windows Live suite being more prominent as well as tips to help the PC experience. Each computer display will try to be simplistic and nice as possible. Stupid stickers are removed off display computers, any wires will be collected and hidden away in the back, one placard will tell the particular Microsoft software running on that particular PC, while another placard will mention the PC’s tech specs and retail stores where you can purchase them for whatever price it is. A Mac section will have a couple of Macs running Windows (in Boot Camp or Parallels), Office for Mac, and any other Microsoft software for Macs. There will be simple wooden shelves with all types of commercial software available for Windows offered, and Microsoft’s own Mac software. Games for Windows will also be a highlight.
- Windows Mobile Bar – A long bar counter will display the latest Windows Mobile phones available, and placards mentioning the special features of each phone. A vertical HDTV will display the benefits of getting a Windows Mobile phone as well as tips and how-to guides for Windows Mobile. The counter will be topped with translucent glass with twinkling blue lights underneath. Accessories for popular Windows Mobile phones will be placed on simple wooden shelves. You can even purchase the phones and get a plan from a wireless carrier in the store.
- Xbox Zone – Xbox units, accessories, games, and maybe even paraphernalia associated to Xbox games or Xbox will be available. There will be several Xbox units hooked up to TVs, and people can sit on plump beanbags and try out the Xbox. Wooden shelves will display Xbox accessories and wooden racks will have Xbox games sorted by genre and alphabetically. An HDTV will display all the benefits of Xbox and Xbox Live, and tips and how-to guides as well. Xbox-related gaming magazines are also on the rack.
- Zune Zone – Zune players, accessories, and music stuff are available in this area. Users can peruse the Zune devices and sit on a soft stool as they do so. The Zune Pass of course will be heavily marketed, and employees can pitch the benefits of this method of buying music. Accessories will be placed on wooden shelves. Several computers will have the Zune software locked onto it, and customers can see how elegant and simple the software is to use. A HDTV will display the wonderful unique features of the Zune player and Zune software, how-to guides, and play ads and perhaps Zune Art content.
- Help Center – This is the place where you can deal with customer service and any issues with Microsoft products. They’ll be a bit friendlier in having long benches if the lines are pretty long. If lines are long, it’d be nice if the Help Center gave out appointed time cards, so that users can do whatever else they need to do and come back later at a more better time. Offer a bowl of mints or little chocolates too.
I’d also like to see Microsoft Surface tables that can showcase pretty much all products and services that Microsoft offers (with tips and how-to guides of course), Microsoft Research projects, upcoming product/services, a history timeline of Microsoft Corp. etc. This stuff will help offer an interactive showcase for Microsoft to display to potential users.
It would be also cool if Microsoft had some holographic projector thing, displaying holograms of Bill Gates or a hardware product or whatever.
Employees should wear something more professional than just T-shirts, but not too classy. Employees should also carry tablet PCs too so they can look up information if a customer would like to know more, and maybe they can even scan credit cards right there on the spot for purchases.
It’d also be awesome if there OLED screens across the wall and stuff. Displaying lots of graphics, pictures and stuff relating to Microsoft.
Workshops or cheap training courses could also be offered in a quieter area of the store, or a separate room and people can attend them.
Please Microsoft, do NOT plaster a bazillion stock photos of smiling people all over the store. It’s so annoying. I’d rather see more products and software than the people that use them. Also, NO dropping too much ‘marketing buzzwords’ such as ‘connection’ ‘experience’ etc. It just looks cheesy.
So I would love to see Microsoft stores giving users and customers a more direct way of interacting with Microsoft, and maybe creating fans if it works out well. I can’t wait. Expect them in major cities this fall.