REAL ESTATE

Comcast’s new Xfinity store format is heavy on interactivity, engagement

BY Marianne Wilson
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Photo Credit: Andy Ryan

Chicago — Comcast enlisted the help of a prestigious design firm to help it create a new, tech-savvy store prototype aimed at enhancing the cable giant's brand reputation and customer service experience.

Comcast and experience design firm ESI Design joined forces to create a new format, Studio Xfinity, which is designed to create an engaging and fully integrated customer experience and embody Xfinity's commitment to “entertainment and connectivity, anytime, anywhere.” The 9,000-sq.-ft. store, in Chicago, is a showcase for the company to debut and test new customer service initiatives. Customers can test drive Xfinity products and services on the store’s 46 tablets and touchscreen demo surfaces, play custom-designed multi- and single-player games and engage with special content and programming in the media-rich entertainment space.

“ESI Design created the Studio Xfinity experience so that customers can engage with everything Xfinity connectivity can bring into their lives — fantastic media, incredible games, and exciting communication tools,” said Ed Schlossberg, principal designer and founder of ESI Design. “It's the community center of the 21st century — a fun, warm and interesting place where customers will be drawn to visit again and again.”

Highlights of the store include:

• A new customer engagement model that provides customers with dedicated service support from the moment they enter the store via a tablet-based, custom designed app. ESI Design worked with the technology design firm Control Group on the technical development of the new customer timeline app, which the company is testing at the store. The app helps team members provide service quickly and efficiently by giving them access to customer information, ranging from the services they have to troubleshooting histories.

• Three flexible, multipurpose studios with 12-ft. by 7-ft. LED screens and theater-style seating. In each studio, customers interact with each other and the studio screen while playing single- or multi-player games, participating in live demos, or test-driving new or existing Xfinity products. The studios’ media can be focused on a unique activity or coordinated together for hosting store-wide events, launches, movie premieres or larger-scale games.

• Demonstration towers, located throughout the space offer guests the opportunity to explore products and services via iPads or take part in one-on-one or group demonstrations led by associates.

• An immersive and interactive media environment with over 800 ft. of LED screens and large-scale media installations, including a 107-ft.-long LED media band wrapping the store’s upper walls. The media screens and installations display brand messages and live or on-demand programming that can coordinate with each of the studios.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Good news for retailers in ICSC’s back-to-school shopping survey

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — There was good news for retailers in the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual BTS (Back-to-School) Consumer Spending Survey.

The survey revealed that the share of consumers expecting to spend more this year increased significantly year-over-year to 67%, compared to 50% of shoppers in 2014 and 39% who expected to increase spending in 2013.

The majority (83%) of BTS purchases will involve physical stores, including 7% of purchases that will be made online and picked up in-store. Of those who will order online and pick-up in-store, 79% said they are likely to buy additional items once they are in the store.

The importance of omnichannel continues to grow significantly, as 79% of respondents plan to use a mobile device while shopping in-store for BTS.

Of those planning to use a mobile device while shopping in a physical store, 44% will use their phone to compare prices, 28% will use digital coupons, 26% will check ratings and reviews, 24% will check inventory and availability of items and 17% will email or text friends and family for a second opinion on an item. As expected, millennials are the most likely demographic to use their smartphones while shopping.

“While typically viewed as an essential expenditure, BTS shopping also highlights many of the trends occurring in the shopping center industry,” said Jesse Tron, spokesman for ICSC. “As physical spaces merge with digital to further enhance the omnichannel experience, consumers are shopping in physical stores, participating in webrooming and using mobile technology at shopping centers. It’s good news as we progress into the all-important latter half of the retail calendar.”

ICSC found that discount stores are still the leading BTS shopping destination, with 77% of consumers turning to discount retailers for their BTS shopping needs. Another of this year’s winners is apparel stores, where one-quarter (25%) of consumers plan to shop this season.

Overall, BTS shoppers plan to shop at a variety of store types that also include office supply stores (40%), online-only retailers (29%), department stores (38%) and wholesale clubs (22%). Only 5% of respondents indicated they would use catalogues.

In other survey highlights:

• Driving in-store BTS purchases in 2015 are the 42% of respondents who still prefer the opportunity to physically examine merchandise before purchasing, while 37% like the convenience of one-stop shopping.

• When discussing why consumers plan to spend more this year, 29% of respondents stated it was because of a need to replace wardrobes and school supplies, while 30% cited a change in school requirements. Additionally, 12% of respondents plan to spend more to keep up with changing fashion trends.

• BTS shoppers are planning to buy a variety of products, including school supplies (76%), apparel and shoes (75%), electronics – including computers, phones, accessories and wearables (53%), backpacks and bags (45%) and eyeglasses (22%).

• Marketing appears to be the main driver of BTS shopping, as 74% of consumers report that they will likely start BTS purchasing when advertisements from major retailers begin to appear.

• The survey found that nearly half (46%) of consumers believe they will get the best deals in August, compared to 30% in July and 15% of respondents who believe the best deals will be found Labor Day weekend or in September.

• The results show August leading the BTS season, with 53% of BTS spending taking place in late summer, and the remainder of shopping split between June (10%), July (21%) and September (17%).

• The survey found that most BTS shoppers (88%) plan to go to a mall or open-air shopping center during the BTS season, and many will do more than shop.

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OPERATIONS

Casey’s prepares for CEO transition

BY Dan Berthiaume

Ankeny, Iowa – Casey’s General Stores Inc. is set to have its first new CEO in more than a quarter-century. After more than 26 years with the company, Robert J. Myers, chairman and CEO, will retire as CEO at the end of the 2016 fiscal year on April 30, 2016.

Casey’s board of directors has named Terry W. Handley, currently president and COO and a 34-year veteran of the company, as president and CEO, effective upon Myers’ retirement. Myers, 68, who has served as Casey’s CEO since 2006, will continue to serve on the company’s board of directors following his retirement.

“On behalf of the board, I want to thank Bob for his extraordinary contributions over the past nine years as our CEO,” said William C. Kimball, lead director of Casey’s. “During his tenure as CEO, Bob has overseen significant and profitable growth as Casey’s has built and acquired nearly 500 stores, while enhancing the performance of our existing stores through strategic remodels, customer-oriented initiatives and new product offerings.”

Handley has worked at Casey’s for 34 years in roles that include: director of marketing, store operations regional manager, VP of food service and senior VP of store operations.

I am grateful to the board for its vote of confidence and to Bob for his mentorship over the years,” said Handley. “I look forward to working closely with the board, our talented management team and employees to continue to drive shareholder value.”

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