Hands On: How Today’s Electronics Stores Stay Relevant

Larry Alton
Larry Alton
Guest Contributor

Electronics stores have struggled over the past several years, facing the closure of former giants like Radio Shack and significant […]

Electronics stores have struggled over the past several years, facing the closure of former giants like Radio Shack and significant restructuring on the part of Best Buy and other mainstays – and the root problem is the digital revolution. As ecommerce becomes more important across all sectors, it’s taken nearly complete control over the segments most closely related to electronics, including media stores (goodbye Blockbuster and Coconuts) and video game stores (GameStop stock is down 50 percent this year). This raises the question: How can the remaining electronics stores remain relevant?

If you’ve ever been in an Apple Store or perused the computer section of Best Buy, you’ve already gotten a taste of the new model: trying out technologies firsthand and getting in-person tutorials. The more customers can interact with products, the more relevant electronics stores will be in the years to come.

The Participatory Model

In many ways, the shift from browsing environment to participatory or in-store workshop is a reflection of a changing audience. Since, particularly in the electronics sector, millennials represent an enormous amount of spending power, shopping formats are changing to appeal to these younger buyers. Regardless of whether they’re online or in a physical shop, millennial shoppers want to engage in discussion, want a hands-on experience, and want to interact with peers and experts.

For brands like Comcast, which is seen as far from trendy by this demographic, a more hands-on model may be the only thing keeping them on the map. New stores blend a café-like atmosphere with coffee and free Wi-Fi with trial areas stocked with technology. In many ways, Comcast wants their stores to be more like Apple, Sephora, and other trendy brands. They want shoppers to linger and interact, with the idea that those activities will lead to greater sales.

Safe and Strategic Trial

If businesses are going to allow users to try products in-store, they need to provide a secure, limited way to do so. For example, all devices available for in-store use should have safe search settings in place so that users can’t pull up inappropriate content in a public setting.

When providing in-store activities, you might also consider using a VPN for Netflix and other streaming services because that will give in-store users a smoother experience without slowing down the whole shop. By isolating devices via VPN, stores can improve everyone’s experience, which will make products more appealing.

In the Zone

Finally, part of what makes in-store activities so effective is that they provide valuable sensory input for shoppers. For electronics stores trying to attract shoppers, touch plays a particularly large role. It’s actually considered the leading reason why people continue to shop in store rather than online – they want to touch the goods. Touch, combined with the calming effect of slow music, encourages shoppers to linger and spend.

The open, welcoming atmosphere fostered by many electronics shops also provides the opportunity for multiple shopping paces. Some shoppers, for example, don’t want to interact with items – they want to get in and get out. Spacious, interactive stores let those who want to shop slowly take their time and talk to staff, while those same devices give speedy shoppers the opportunity for self-service. Just think of the average Apple store; some linger around devices while others head straight for appointments or talk to staff members.

Though electronics stores have had a tough few years, interactive stores are making them among the most appealing and relevant brick-and-mortar settings around. As the way consumers shop changes, electronics stores actually have the advantage of housing the most engaging goods around. Your job as a retailer, then, is to find the most productive way to make your products work the same for you.

About the writer: Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter  @LarryAlton3 and on LinkedIn.

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