Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Carbon copy retailing?

I have written entries here highlighting the innovation of Apple's retail approach before. However now it is Microsoft, their giant rival that seems to have noticed their success. The Redmond company has decided to open its own stores in the vicinity of the Mac and iPhone maker's own flagship retail outlets. And Microsoft has also enlisted the services of a real estate consultant that also assisted Apple in the early days of its stores. But what of the prospects for success? Well that depends on what is inside the stores and how the people in them serve potential customers.

Other computer companies have stores on the high street, such as Sony. Microsoft's problem however is that the physical hardware their operating system runs on is made by many other companies. This dilutes the brand messaging that they can create in-store. Microsoft have the popular X-Box gaming console they can showcase and also the Zune music player which unlike the iPod most consumers on the high street have never heard of. However the PC market is dominated by other players and increasingly those that offer Netbook computers, many of which run Linux and not Windows at all. Then, compared to the iPhone, Microsoft have a whole raft of mobile phone manufacturers to offer products from which run Windows Mobile. While this may seem like an abundance of choice, it actually compromises the simplicity and clarity of the Apple Retail approach. This may ultimately determine the fate of Microsoft's retail venture, especially if they place them so close to their competitors' stores that the contrast is so obvious to the public!

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