A lot of ears in the business world perked up when hearing about Microsoft eventually opening retail stores across the country, especially because it’s smack dab during one of America’s worst economic downturns. However, when Microsoft does something, it’s not necessarily going to be conventional, despite the company also having to watch themselves in this economy as they start shedding some of their work force for the first time in their history. They still seem confidant enough, though, where their business plan for their chain of retail stores seems to be, “don’t worry; be promotional.”
Most of you reading know that Apple has retail stores around the country as a legitimate way to sell their hardware…with real intent on making a dent in the retail world. They seem to be holding up at the moment as are longtime staples Dell and Gateway. But when you hear about Microsoft not expecting to make much profit off their retail stores and instead use the stores as a method of promoting their upcoming and unsteady Windows 7 and other fingers in the pie, you have to wonder if this is brilliant marketing or a major misstep without the direct guidance of Bill Gates moving every mountain.
While it might be a challenge thinking of people crowding into a Microsoft store for products, we may be (un)pleasantly surprised to see more people in there than we can imagine due to the perpetual reliance on Windows by the populace. And with word in the media that more people are happier with Apple’s products overall, you have to ponder seeing cantankerous, longtime sycophants to Microsoft entering one of their stores and raising the roof with an overdue screaming fit as a 25-year release dealing with constant bugs in Windows. Then again, that might be a better way to vent than having to endure Microsoft’s technical hotline where techs with Indian accents attempt to help or alternately confuse you.
The above scenario probably hasn’t entered Microsoft’s mind yet, even though they’ve already announced that the purpose of their retail stores is to promote their products, provide supposed help when you need it and overall remind people that they’re probably screwed if they don’t use the new Windows 7. It’s a business model that will undoubtedly be emulated with other monopolistic companies.
Or will the retail store of this vein start to go down with every other retail outlet of late? We’ve already seen a number of widespread retail stores in the last decade from major corporations such as Disney or even major electronics dealers Bose and AT&T. Disney Stores used to be a real favorite of mine as well as many until Disney realized they weren’t going to reap huge profits with specialized products outside of the theme parks. While Disney Stores still exist, Disney closed many of their stores within the last five years in order to keep their business model within reality and understanding the economic climate ahead. It wouldn’t surprise me if Disney closed more of them before this year’s end because of people not wanting to spend extra money on specialized products that already cost a bundle compared to items in an average retail store.
The same goes for all of the other existing retail outlets from major behemoth corporations who create products not typically conducive to a retail outlet. Stores from above-mentioned Bose, for instance, can’t make much money when it’s mostly a demonstration store to get people to buy their sound systems or their celebrated and expensive acoustic sound-wave radio/CD player.
Then we’re reminded that Microsoft always plays to win and that they may just surprise us as the last retail store standing…
If there’s a truly innovative business plan here, it may just be the connection with users of Microsoft products to gain better feedback on what they think of them and what they might want. Microsoft has really been the most distant from their true customers, or at least on our home soil. The company has already been long languishing in stigma over having no connection with their customers other than through the tech phone lines over in India. Since I’ve used the tech lines a time or two, I admit that the tech gurus there are gracious, sharp and efficient. Nevertheless, a connection with someone in America you can talk to face to face is not only essential to Microsoft’s future, it’s also essential to the American work force.
Through Microsoft’s retail stores, those who once worked in IT and subsequently became victim of downsizing should be the people hired so we can talk to them there when we’re dealing with Windows issues or problems with any of the company’s other products. We won’t care if it’s reanimation of the nerds–it’ll be refreshing to see direct representatives of Microsoft around to help us out and get our feedback. The only thing we’ll dread is someone coming up and pushing Windows 7 on us so he or she can obtain a nice, healthy commission.
Yes, all retail stores have salespeople out to make a commission most of the time. From the outset, though, it appears that Microsoft will just welcome feedback and create a community with their customers. Should that be the new retail business model, it’s possible all the above-mentioned retail outlets from major companies will have to do the same thing in order to have a real purpose for existing. Certainly we couldn’t have envisioned a retail chain of this type saying they weren’t going into the venture for profit just a few years ago. In the circuitous paths of business, however, spending company profits to keep a retail store going just to garner customer feedback that can potentially bring larger profits is a true blueprint to economic survival.
The sobering side to this is that corporations will ultimately and unsurprisingly be the last ones standing in the retail business rather than the ones squarely in it for profit who will fall…and already are.
As shaky as Microsoft has been lately, they may have just paved the way for the corporate world to keep packing every American street corner with their own brand of stores that may no longer have sweaty, high-pressure salesman on staff desperate to make a sale…