Google and other leading tech giants — Amazon.com Inc., SAP AG, Intel Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. — are opening retail pop-up stores, stores-within-stores, mall kiosks and showrooms, even outfitting tour buses with their latest gadgets, to ramp up sales during the crucial holiday shopping season. Inspired and challenged by Apple’s successful retail stores, the companies hope to convert tech-skeptical consumers into gadget buyers by letting them swipe, type and tinker with the new technology, experts say.
Not every sale, these companies are learning, can be made online.
“They have to be where the public goes and frequents, and that’s the mall,” said David Johnson, chief executive officer of Strategic Vision, a Georgia-based branding firm. “Your tech geeks are going to order online. But before you’re going to see mass consumption, people are going to want to touch the products.”
As more big tech companies add consumer gadgets to their product lineup and compete with Apple, which has an ever-growing footprint of flourishing stores, they’ll also add more pop-up displays to show off those gadgets, allowing consumers to interact with tech in a personal way, experts say.
“Everyone in retail has looked at Apple in the last few years to try and replicate what they’ve done,” said Stephen Baker, an analyst with The NPD Group. “If you are dabbling in hardware you have to be in front of the customer.”
SAP doesn’t sell gadgets like Apple, but it does provide the software for more than 250,000 big businesses and agencies, many of which make and sell everyday consumer products such as cosmetics and hardware parts.
Experts say most tech giants won’t open full stores. Retail space is expensive, and unless you have a wide product selection it would be hard to fill. Holiday installations and pop-up stores give companies the flexibility to move around and avoid hiring full-time retail staff.
The purpose of these pop-ups, buses and kiosks is not necessarily to sell, but to convince consumers who don’t own a tablet, laptop or smartphone to reconsider.
BIG TECH RETAIL EXPERIENCES:
—Intel Corp.: Intel partnered with HP and other hardware manufacturers to create the Intel Experience Store, which sells HP Split and Pavilion laptops. Stores are in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.
—Hewlett-Packard Co.: HP has small stores set up inside two locations of the Nebraska Furniture Mart, in Omaha, Neb., and Des Moines, Iowa. HP also has mini-stores within stores on the East Coast, and pop-ups in shopping centers throughout the U.S. and Latin America.
A large truck touring the country, called the HP Holiday Joyride, promotes the company’s new technology and offer deals on laptops and other gadgets for the holidays.
—Google Inc.: Created the Google Winter Wonderlab in several malls for the holiday season. The displays feature Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, Chromebooks and the Chromecast, a USB-sized digital media player. Visitors can play games or videos on the tablets and create a personalized, slow-motion holiday video set to music that is filmed inside a snow globe.
—SAP AG: Built a bus in August called the Big Data Express that offers an interactive experience with technology from SAP, which is based in Germany. The bus includes tablets and touch screens that visitors can use to experience SAP applications, cloud services and mobile technology. It has been touring the country, hitting 61 events from TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco to a Detroit Lions football game and corporate events.
—EBay Inc.: Put up digital storefronts in Westfield San Francisco Center, which shoppers can browse and buy from giant touch screens inside the mall. Each of the three screens displays inventory from different retailer — Sony, Toms and Rebecca Minkoff — and shoppers browse items and a select their purchases by touching the glass, and then check out and pay from a smartphone. The digital stores, which will remain up until Jan. 12, use eBay technology that includes connected glass panels, mobile technology and digital payments systems.
—Microsoft Corp.: Has 51 permanent retail stores and 31 pop-up stores, several of which go up for the holidays. It will build another 19 permanent and pop-up locations by the end of 2014.
—Apple Inc.: Has more than 250 full retail stores in the country and about 165 stores outside the U.S.
Source: MCT Information Services