Quoted – Microsoft Opens First Retail Store – Brandweek

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Microsoft has jumped into the retail arena and opened its first store in Scottsdale, Ariz., featuring interactive technology and a sleek modern design. This is the first of several planned stores for the software giant, the next opening on Oct. 29 in Mission Viejo, Calif., and is being celebrated by the company as an opportunity to connect with customers and elevate the Microsoft brand. But some analysts see this move into retail, and even the design of the stores, as derivative of archrival Apple.

Microsoft is emphasizing the personalization that the new stores will offer, with consumers able to customize their hardware with external “skins” and create an original ring tone for their Windows mobile phone. When a customer purchases a computer, they will have a 15-minute session with one of the employees to get set up their applications, passwords and personal preferences. The store includes a Microsoft Answers Suite, where technical advisors offer assistance to patrons with tech issues.

“The idea of customizing a product on a mass scale, there’s a branding experience about that and there’s a connection with the customer—all that stuff is usually good,” said Scott Testa, professor of business at Cabrini College. But Testa supports Frankel’s outlook on Microsoft’s originality as a brand: “Microsoft copies everything from Apple, so why wouldn’t they copy their stores?”

Testa believes that in opening stores when it has, Microsoft followed the company pattern of waiting until something was “tried and true” before jumping in. Nonetheless, he believes that entering the retail arena will be a good thing for Microsoft, and that it is better late than never.

“I don’t think they see it as a big profit driver. I think they see it as a brand-building experience and marketing experience more than anything. This will be a grain of sand on the whole beach of Microsoft’s revenues and operations,” said Testa. “But from a branding perspective it makes a lot of sense. The timing’s good, they get some press for the stores, Windows 7 is coming out and the holiday season is coming up. It makes sense.”

http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/news-and-features/shopper-marketing/e3i834106c352ea8687e4f54f2a9dc07fc1

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