Microsoft Store Needs Own Identity

Discussion
Apr 14, 2011
George Anderson

A RetailWire piece back in October looked at Microsoft’s
plan to open its retail stores as close to Apple as possible, even if that
meant being right across the hall. A number of people chiming in on the strategy
saw it as a me-too path to failure.

Bill Emerson, president of Emerson Advisors,
said, "If Maxwell House opened
a retail store across from a Starbucks, would you consider it a good move for
Maxwell House?"

A piece by Dave Methvin on the InformationWeek website
yesterday has picked up on the theme.

"If imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery, Microsoft has
been tossing compliments at Apple left and right with its new Microsoft retail
stores. Not only are Microsoft stores taking up positions near Apple stores,
but they have adopted much of the Apple feel. Yet beneath the surface, the
two stores are as different as the products they sell."

Part of Microsoft’s
challenge is that they are selling other companies’ stuff. The PCs are made
by another company and often come loaded with lots of trial utilities that
the purchaser doesn’t want. Any negative experience related to products from
any other manufacturer become a Microsoft issue if the purchase is made at
one of its stores.

Mr. Methvin’s answer would be for Microsoft to "create
about a half-dozen of the best darn Windows hardware and configurations on
the face of the planet. … There would be no trialware or other junk on these
setups. The out-of-box experience should be quick and make people happy they
bought from the Microsoft store and not from some big-box discount place."

While
Microsoft has stayed out of computer manufacturing, Mr. Methvin said that is
a position the company may be wise to reconsider. "If hardware
makers don’t want to cooperate, I don’t think it’s out of the question that
Microsoft could create its own brand-name computers. It needs to do whatever
it takes to ensure the customer gets a good experience."

Discussion Questions: What are Microsoft’s biggest challenges with regard to its retail store business and what are your solutions? What do you think of Mr. Methvin’s proposal that the company produce its own hardware and configurations?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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12 Comments on "Microsoft Store Needs Own Identity"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 23 days ago

What Microsoft does have is sheer numbers — a monster number of consumers that use their products. I do not believe that Microsoft products have nearly the identity and passion that Apple has and, therefore, the retail stores might not have as much potential to be quite as effective.

Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 23 days ago

I visited the Microsoft Store at the Mall of America, a couple of months after commenting about it on RetailWire. (I have also made it a study topic for the undergraduate class in retailing management that I teach.) While the store had good foot traffic (not surprising the week after Christmas at the MOA), it suffered from the “identity crisis” that many of us predicted last fall. What, exactly, does Microsoft stand for other than a software supplier for other brands’ hardware? The store was dominated by “demonstration” spaces (like an Apple store) where customers can try out laptops and other equipment. But some of Microsoft’s proprietary “wins” (Xbox Kinect and the new Windows phone software) seemed curiously underplayed. Understanding that this is a work in progress, there is plenty of thinking to be done especially in contrast to the Apple Store next door.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
10 years 23 days ago

Well, for starters what are they going to sell in the Microsoft store? The only viable electronic product Microsoft has is the X Box. Yes they have Zune, but they can’t give them away. I believe that you have to offer expert service to compete with Apple. An if they are gong to sell desktops and laptops and tablets whose are they going to sell? Microsoft may surprise me, but I see this as another release of Windows.

They are just going throw it against the wall and see if anything sticks. Again, Microsoft will spend millions to make Apple look great!

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 23 days ago

I am a Microsoft user and have been for years. Yet Microsoft and Apple, while in the same basic business, are as different in their marketing approach as companies can be. Microsoft has a market Apple can not penetrate and vice versa.

My suggestion to Microsoft, IF they want to have more retail visibility, is to create their own image and forget about being across the street or down the street. Be who you want to be, not who Apple is.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 23 days ago
I think Ed has it exactly right. Playing “me too” or “me better” with Apple without actually delivering the goods is not a strategy. What Microsoft is missing is a flagship product that defines it. I have suggested to every MSFT exec that will hear me that the company should make its own line of PCs. High end, sleek, well made. Yes, I know in a sense it’s an Apple “me too” but it would also deliver the goods. When it was time for my to buy an ultra portable (or when I decided it was time), first I bought a netbook. What an awful machine! I spent the next year looking for something that was designed like a Mac Air, but was a windows-based machine. There was NOTHING. So I bought (and fell in love with) a Mac Air. I don’t think the OS is “all that.” I’m fine enough with Windows 7. But the machine is NICE. So Microsoft plays “me too” with its retail stores, but has nothing overwhelming or exciting in… Read more »
George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
10 years 23 days ago

Having visited the first Microsoft stores last year and a couple of the newer stores recently my impressions have not changed. They are simply a poor imitation of Apple’s highly successful stores. Most recently I was in the Fashion Valley Shopping Center here in San Diego. The Apple store was busy and there wasn’t a single customer in the Microsoft store.

Microsoft has the resources to create a truly remarkable retail environment yet they chose to copy Apple. The question is why? Unfortunately, it looks like Sony is in the process of doing the same thing with their new stores. The new store in Los Angeles includes their version of the “Genius Bar.” The good news is there are some very innovative retailers who are willing to step up and create stores that don’t look or function like everyone else.

Lee Peterson
Guest
10 years 23 days ago
I disagree with most that has been written on this so far in that from my (too many) years in retail, nothing is better for a store than to have a ‘like’ store very nearby. The term we used to use is ‘feeding frenzy’. It’s good for customers to shop several options and it’s even better for the retailers as they’re A) forced to be competitive and B) you know EXACTLY what you’re competition is doing. If you’re not good enough, you’re going to find out why in very short order…and then you must adjust or die. Your job as a retailer, every single day, is to knock the crap out of your competition…not shy away from them. Retail is NOT for the faint of heart. Why not move in next door? Let’s get it on! So, my advice to Microsoft is to keep it up, keep learning, keep adjusting and keep getting better. Taking on Apple nose to nose is a good strategy–they’re the best so, let’s see how you stack up.
Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 23 days ago

The problem here is that the Microsoft user experience is fundamentally broken to begin with. The products are troublesome, faulty and often aggravating. So, to introduce a store experience that promises to be Apple-esque is almost laughable.

Before extending the brand, my advice would have been to fix the brand first.

Dean A. Sleeper
Guest
Dean A. Sleeper
10 years 23 days ago
I’m with Mr. Peterson. There’s a reason that retailers of a type locate themselves together. It brings the audience to town and if you can’t compete on that basis…you have no business trying. “Me too” in location doesn’t concern me. “Me too” in messaging and execution does. Each of these companies has enormous strengths and utterly massive customer bases. At least one of the groups is unwilling to believe it, but both groups are quite loyal. One might claim more pure love…but it’s hard to argue that nobody wants to do business with the other when the sheer $ volume clearly proves otherwise. While I suspect that Microsoft would love to generate robust profits from the retail venture, it’s arguable that they have a broader agenda and ability to capitalize upon it in more and other ways. Kinect is a great example of a true consumer rage brought to us by Microsoft. Play on that. Let that feeling ooze onto everything else. What I do question is whether the creative folks tasked with setting the… Read more »
Larry Negrich
Guest
10 years 23 days ago
Just as fishing isn’t about the fish, Microsoft stores aren’t about retail sales. Their current store strategy of chasing Apple Stores is doing their brand a disservice. Apple has built its empire and the allure of its stores on the hipness of devices for the enabling of the mobile consumer (and black t-shirts). Apple won that battle. Microsoft stores must center around a product and experience that separates them from the competition, and pulls them out of the shadow of Apple stores. And MSFT has the perfect product for this: Xbox. MSFT has the ability to control the home base of the consumer via an appliance (Xbox) that can integrate communications (email, IM, voip, etc.), home entertainment (TV, movie, and game distribution), and the entire web experience. Build the store around that message. Show the potential of an Xbox server that becomes the central communication, education, and entertainment component of the home and the ultimate connection to the cloud. And show the powerful machines (PCs, phones, media players, etc) that a host of vendors have… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 23 days ago
Apple is, if not the most, one of the most strategically focused companies in the world. Microsoft is one of the least. Apple is amazing in execution. Microsoft is a disaster. Microsoft is to the technology industry what the former General Motors was to the auto industry and former AT&T was to the telecommunications industry. It seems there is always something new at the Apple store. But, other than opening day, why go to a Microsoft store? As a retailer, MS has no reason for being. But the biggest disaster is around the bend if they decide to start making computers. What would their competitive advantage be? Cost? Features? Creativity? Every computer manufacturer would beat them on any of those counts. And, can you imagine how well their first release would work? MS exists on momentum. Doug Stephens is right…fix the brand. I will add, fix the business and most of all, fix the culture or this company will join the former GM & ATT in the business Hall of Fame.
claude lalonde
Guest
claude lalonde
10 years 22 days ago

If Maxwell House opened a coffee shop across the street from a Starbucks, they’d be on the wrong side of the street….

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