week and right in time for Microsoft's Windows 7 launch, Microsoft opened its
first-ever retail store. Designed to give shoppers a chance to experience the
best of Microsoft and its partners, the store offers customers a select line of
Laptops, Netbooks, all-in-one PCs, Xbox consoles, Windows Mobile Windows phones
and one of the largest selections of third-party software titles in any store.
Opening a retail store is a major step for Microsoft, and is the latest in a
series of initiatives to engage more directly with customers and improve the
experience of purchasing and using Microsoft-based technology.
"Our customers have told us they want choice, better value and great
service when shopping for technology, and that is what we will deliver
through our Microsoft stores," says David Porter, corporate vice president
of Microsoft Retail. Porter, a 27-year veteran of the retail industry, was
hired by Microsoft in February to lead the effort.
According to Porter, the design of the stores is uniquely Microsoft, with
four "zones" that focus on different types of technology experiences. "We
want to showcase what's possible with the full Microsoft brand."
As soon as you enter the store, it's clear what he means. Laptops on large
cedar tables are front and center, with seating so shoppers can sit and tinker.
The walls are lined with giant LCD screens that envelop the space with
landscapes and product images designed to create interest and spark curiosity.
Below the images, stylish all-in-one PCs are set up with Zunes, Xbox consoles,
headphones and widescreen displays, demonstrating how all the items work
together to create a multimedia experience.
Toward the back of the store are Laptop bags and an array of software titles
before you turn the corner and reach a veritable bonanza for Xbox enthusiasts -
a gaming zone featuring a 94" widescreen, with seating and an array of
controllers to play with.
According to store manager Cheryl Hibbard, every detail of the Scottsdale
space has been designed to facilitate interaction among customers, the
technology, and the store's highly trained staff.
"Our employees will be able to showcase our products in a way that's
never been done before," Hibbard says. "Our job in the retail stores is to
provide a welcoming environment where everyone can learn more about our
products and how to use them to benefit their life."
According to Hibbard, the store design and experience is centered on three
core principles: elevating customer choice, providing more value and delivering
"In the area of choice, the product assortment in the store represents
the best, newest and most popular consumer products," she says. "The
Microsoft Stores also celebrate personal choice and preference, and so the
service offerings in the stores let people express their individual style
through technology - inside and out."
Hibbard says that while having an array of the latest devices from a variety
of manufacturers is important, customers will also be able to personalize and
customize their computers, Xbox consoles, Zunes and other devices with external
"skins," through a partnership with an outside company called Skin-It.
"If you want to have Disney characters on your Laptop or an NFL team on
your Xbox, we'll build a nice library of licensed products that you can use,
or you also can bring in a picture of your dog or your family and make it
custom," she says.
Another fun personalization feature for customers is the ability to create an
original ring tone for their Windows phone. The store is set up with Microsoft
Surface tables that make creating a ring tone as easy as selecting a theme and
"drawing" the tone, then sending it to your phone.
"Surface can also be used to compare cell phone rate plans," Hibbard
says. "The possibilities are virtually endless and the best part is it's
More important than skins and ring tones, says Hibbard, is the ability to
customize devices from the inside, so the experience of using them is just the
way customers want.
Once a PC is purchased, store employees will offer a 15-minute session to
help customers set up their passwords and networks, and tailor their browser,
e-mail and other applications to their personal preferences.
According to Hibbard, the setup session is a key element of providing
superior service. "Customers can launch their computer from hibernate the minute
they take it home," she says. "With this set-up session, we're taking the
typical 'ready to assemble' PC ownership experience to 'ready to run'."
Another differentiator for the store is its commitment to showcasing the best
products available on the Microsoft platform. With so many suppliers creating
new hardware, cutting-edge Laptops, PCs, monitors and other devices, one ongoing
mission of the Microsoft Store will be to find the latest and greatest products
"Once we open the first stores and people see what we're about in terms
of showcasing the choice, highlighting the value and providing a full
service experience for customers, I believe the supplier base is going to
want to make some investments and figure out how what they can move into the
store," says Porter.
Porter says the company understands that won't happen overnight and thinks
that Microsoft can take a long view and build on what the company thinks is a
solid plan. "Retail is an interesting business," he says. "In retail you're
never finished. There's always a new item. There's always a better way. We can
always improve service. So let's get better tomorrow. That's what Microsoft
retail will be. It will be better tomorrow than it is today, and it will
steadily make progress every single day."
In addition to the grants and a commitment to corporate citizenship in the
Phoenix area, the store will create dozens of jobs. The Scottsdale store is
expecting a staff of 80-100.
The next store opening is planned for this week in Mission Viejo, Calif which
will open Thursday, October 29. Customers who experience the Scottsdale and
Mission Viejo stores will help guide the company's plans for the development of
Cheers ~ Arne