As might be expected from a retail chain that serves as an extension of a technology brand, Microsoft stores are sleek and futuristic. Store layout is open and interactive, with a wide variety of opportunities for shoppers to engage with technology. However, customer-facing technology is limited to products on display, without IT features such as self-service kiosks or electronic shelf labels that can be found at many other stores.
Interactive Promotional Display
At the mall-based Microsoft store location this reporter recently visited, the first piece of technology a prospective customer encounters is a widescreen Perceptive Pixel multi-touch display in front of the store. The display is clearly branded for the Microsoft Store and lets customers interact with digital promotions of the products and services for sale inside.
Hands-on Technology Access
Store layout is non-traditional, featuring products such as mobile phone hardware, software packages and video games behind glass cases along the walls at the rear of the store. The front two-thirds of the store consists of open workstations, each featuring a Microsoft Surface Tablet or other PC or tablet device from a Microsoft OS partner such as Samsung.
The devices allow consumers to directly engage with Microsoft software applications such as the new Windows 8 operating system and the Skype online messaging/communications client. Skype terminals also allow consumers to use headphones from hardware partners such as Skullcandy and Beats by Dre during trial sessions.
Other interactive technology features include stations where customers can engage with live demos of Xbox games toward the back of the store. The store is heavily staffed with associates known as Service Advisors who will provide basic support services and consultation for free and also offer extended services for a sliding fee scale. The ready availability of expert staff makes the basic store environment, which is geared toward a more sophisticated technology user, compatible with the needs of an IT novice.
The checkout counter for the Microsoft store is located toward the rear of the store. The retailer uses the Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail POS system running on PC terminals. The store also offers free in-store WiFi and has a section in the back with open workstations where customers can use their own portable computing devices.