What does Microsoft’s new venture into physical UK retail mean for the brand?
27/08/2019 | by Proximity
What Microsoft’s first European store is like
Recently we visited the brand-new Microsoft flagship store, located at the crossroads of Oxford Street and Regent Street – one of the busiest shopping locations in Europe, not far from Apple’s Flagship UK Store. With roughly 4 million people visiting Oxford Street each week (according to Hello Magazine), it’s no wonder that Microsoft decided to plant their only store in Europe in the midst of this thriving retail hub. The store consists of 3 floors, all filled with Microsoft staff members, products and revolutionary technology. Both the ground floor and first floor have Surface stations as well as specific areas allocated to other Microsoft products. (Microsoft Surface includes a range of touch screen computers and laptops, screens and tablets.) There are also shelving areas lined with technology accessories such as laptop covers, headphones, chargers and cables amongst other items. Unique to the ground floor is a DJ playing music from a Microsoft platform as well as a traditionally British red post-box. On the front of the post-box is a Microsoft Surface tablet, enabling customers to design unique postcards and print them out right from the post-box. A click and collect desk is also stationed on the ground floor. Even more interactive elements lay on the first floor – an Xbox Game Pass consists of 15 Xbox One platforms and Xbox gaming chairs, allowing gamers to try out the newest technology. Another experiential part of the store is the Surface Design Lab. This enables customers to choose designs from the Design Lab and have them engraved onto their Surface laptop covers. The second floor holds meeting rooms and an area for exclusive, private events. One thing we did notice when touring the store was that Microsoft didn’t have any means of capturing data. This will make it harder for the brand to turn visitors into customers.
Microsoft have decided that the time is right to break onto the UK High Street
Over the last couple of years, numerous retailers have closed their store doors for good. So why have Microsoft decided that now is the right time to open a huge flagship store in the middle of London? According to The Guardian, the store employs 150 members of staff and is ‘a mark of the firm’s continued commitment to the UK market, where it already employed 5000 people.’ Microsoft state that they have not been put off by Brexit – Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, Cindy Rose, told The Guardian that they want to continue to invest in the UK market as they believe it will pay off. “We think whatever the political landscape brings, we are confident the UK will continue to thrive and prosper.” Microsoft also stated on their own blog that ‘The UK is home to some of our most passionate fans. We already enjoy connecting through our partners and in our digital stores and look forward to bringing a physical store to the region as another great choice for customers to experience the best technology from Microsoft.’
Microsoft have proved that physical stores are still important to retail
You may have heard the phrase ‘retail is dying’ a lot over the last few years. By opening up their immersive flagship store, Microsoft are proving that this is not at all the case. By creating an experiential customer journey with multiple different touch points, customers can discover and shop unlike they ever have before – and have reason to come back and visit, time and time again – there will always be something new to experience and try out; like a new game to play, a new tablet to get to grips with.
What Microsoft’s new venture means for their competitors
But what does Microsoft’s new physical venture into the UK mean for other technology retailers, like Apple and Dell? The new Microsoft store is only a few metres away from Apple’s store on Regent Street. Visually, both stores look similar with the sleek white walls and fresh wooden accessories. However, both stores have their own unique selling points. For example, Apple hold seminars and classes in the majority of their stores, and Microsoft have the Xbox gaming hub setting them apart. Will the new Microsoft store convert loyal Apple customers into brand new Microsoft customers? It’s unlikely. A part of what makes each brand so strong is the fact that they have extremely dedicated customers. But the new store hasn’t just been created to attract new customers. It’s been created to preview what Microsoft are capable of. It’s designed to be a hub of technology, where customers can spend hours at a time, enjoying the immersive touch points. Microsoft don’t necessarily need to have any stores in the UK to be as visible as Apple, but it is a nice string to their already strong bow.
On the other hand, will Dell now follow in the footsteps of Microsoft, and open an immersive retail hub of their own? According to CEO Today, the CEO of Dell (Michael Dell) has taken the company public, private and then public again in an attempt to keep up with changing consumer demands and business customer needs. Maybe what the brand needs is a central hub where customers can go to learn about Dell and their products, and immerse themselves in Dell’s technology. Perhaps Dell could take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book.