Comcast’s new Xfinity store format is heavy on interactivity, engagement
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.
World’s largest mall slated for 2016 opening
Doha, Qatar – The world’s largest mall is coming soon. The Mall of Qatar, which will encompass almost 4.2 million-sq.-ft. with 400 shops, a luxury hotel, a family entertainment center, a five-star restaurant and 82 other eating establishments, is slated to open in first quarter 2016.
Built at an estimated cost of up to $1 billion, the mall will be adjacent to a 2022 World Cup stadium, and will have a dedicated station on Doha's new metro line. The center will have more than 1.75 million-sq.-ft. of retail leasable space on three levels, along with underground and surface parking for 7,000 cars.
UrbaCon Trading & Contracting is developing the mall, which is currently about 70% complete.
Now Trending: Co-Working It Out
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As revitalized urban spaces continue to flourish in cities across the country, the concept of co-working spaces has gained considerable traction. The growing popularity of this new workspace arrangement is more than just another piece of the urban puzzle, it is one of the driving forces helping to shape a new generation of emerging urban landscapes.
Co-working is a creative, collaborative and communal shared-space concept that allows professionals to rent or reserve space (on a limited or ongoing basis) in professional environments designed to provide the structure and support of a first-class professional office space without the significant financial commitment required for larger offices and long-term leases. Ideally suited for freelancers, tech-startups, telecommuters and small businesses, individuals and small companies are locating in co-working spaces in major cities all over the country. Whether renting an office space, securing a dedicated desk, or buying a daily pass to use the meet-up rooms or reserve a “hot seat” at a table, co-working provides a range of appealing options for a significant slice of the professional community. Co-working provides a range of flexible workplace options in a collegial and supportive atmosphere among creative peers.
Co-working spaces are growing in popularity as the new emerging creative class grows larger among millennials — and particularly amongst the population of professionals whom found themselves without work in the wake of the last recession. Much more than just a financial and logistical convenience, co-working spaces provide something entirely different from a traditional office environment: the opportunity to be working amidst a variety of different professionals and in an environment that inspires innovation and nurtures artistry and creativity.
What is really interesting is the effect that these co-working environments — and the attitudes, behaviors and expectations they support and promote — are having on the surrounding urban landscape.
Because while the co-working space is creating an entrepreneurial “ecosystem” under its own roof, it is also part of a larger milieu where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And those parts are a vibrant and vital mix of local retail boutiques, pop-ups, chef-driven restaurant concepts and trendy national retailers. The aesthetic and atmospheric influence of the co-working lifestyle contributes to urban-hip designed apartments and lofts (both newly constructed and the adaptive reuse of warehouses and older, historic, buildings) and hospitality/entertainment (e.g., event arenas for music, hotel boutiques, etc.). Co-working spaces tend to be co-located with emerging concepts like micro-apartments and trendy dining and entertainment options.
In ecological terms, co-working concepts can be thought of as a keystone species: a species with an outsized impact on its environment, and one that plays a central role in influencing the other organisms in that environment. In many urban environments today, co-working spaces are the keystone species, the pivotal lever in a cascade of new development. The metaphor is particularly apt because the interrelationships, habitats, and occupants of today’s bustling urban cores constitute a true mixed-use ecosystem.
An interesting question is whether this association is being driven by underlying structural dynamic or is simply the byproduct of like-minded people and an expanding creative class having an appetite for the places, spaces and resources they need to meet their personal and professional preferences. I tend to think that it’s a little of both. Certainly urban areas tend to be more welcoming and conducive to creative spaces that are geared toward Millennials and young professionals starting out on their own and getting their first job. More specifically, however, today’s workforce views small business development and entrepreneurial efforts more favorably — both in terms of the kinds of places they want to work, and the kinds of places they want to live near.
Such urban ecosystems can be found in San Francisco, LA, NYC, Austin, Dallas, and other major cities. While some are more mature than others, the trendline seems clear: co-working (and the corresponding urban spaces where freelancing, startup and a creative professional culture are on the rise) is experiencing an uptick. Some noteworthy examples include Denver’s Union Station/LoDo/RiNo area; Chicago’s West Loop and Hyde Park; and Boston’s downtown area around Prudential Center Plaza. In Denver co-working names like Modworks, Creative Density, and Uncubed speak to the growing popularity of the concept, while in Boston, Workbar, Idea Space and Collaboratory are prominent examples. In Chicago, Hyde Park’s Chicago Innovation Exchange and 53rd Street retail pop-ups and business incubators provide unique and appealing alternatives to traditional commercial space.
Today’s urban populations value great dining options and creative entertainment options, and they are seeking out a lifestyle that supports their priorities. Notions of community also loom large in the co-working equation. Co-working spaces fuel a community dynamic that is supportive of idea creation and entrepreneurial energies. In a sense, professional engagement leads to social engagement, with retail and dining destinations that are also providing more interactive, communal and community spaces. Regardless of the city or the neighborhood, density is the key—residential density, workforce density, and the abundance of retail, dining and entertainment options that emerges to service that density.
So what does it all mean (aside from being somewhat disruptive idea for office property leasing)? Fundamentally, I think it affirms the notion that brick-and-mortar is alive and well, leading to the creation of different and distinctive types of retail concepts. These are retailers with smaller footprints that are more interactive with their consumers, more connected with them, and more understanding of their tastes and preferences. They are working harder to tailor their products and services to what those consumers want, and the result is more vibrant and engaging environments and experiences.
To some extent this is a phenomenon fueled by the recession. With fewer jobs and traditional office space going begging, the emergence of freelancers and entrepreneurs was unsurprising. And while it may seem ironic that a recession was an inspiration for one of the most influential drivers of commercial real estate in successful mixed-use urban environments, it is tough to argue with the results.
Jerry Hoffman, president and CEO of Hoffman Strategy Group, brings 30 years of economic and market analysis that provides insights for all pieces of mixed-use projects. Core project specialties include urban retail corridors, infill, and suburban mixed use as well as shopping center repurposing and redevelopment, entertainment district development, university-led development, and adaptive reuse of property. To learn more, visit Hoffmanstrategygroup.com or connect with Jerry at [email protected].