Earlier today a mini debate was sparked on twitter when I tweeted that Microsoft Stores were probably more effective at selling the new Lumia devices than the At&t stores:
MSFT stores will be the real factor in selling 920s, At&t employees are kind of clueless.
— Ali Al-Qudsi (@AliQudsi) November 11, 2012
The reasoning behind my tweet was that I’ve heard multiple stories where At&t employees were somewhat clueless regarding the Lumia line, or WP8 in general. We’ve heard of refusals to sell the Lumias off contract at the current time, as well as limited stock and colors at At&t stores. On the other hand besides a single person mentioning that Microsoft Store employees were pushing customers towards HTC devices the general outlook is that Microsoft stores know what they’re talking about regarding the devices and features, as well as a much wider range of available colors.
The major benefit is that Microsoft stores sell all the new Lumia devices (920, 810, 820, 822) making it easier for customers to make an informed decision between the different devices & carriers, the obvious downside for this is that all the other flagship devices from HTC and Samsung would also be on display (in contrast to At&T or Verizon who seem to have taken on only a single flagship device from either HTC or Nokia and pairing them with medium range devices from both). Another huge boost for Nokia as a whole through Microsoft stores is the Windows 8 ecosystem environment, someone might walk in to see a new Windows 8 laptop, and if the sales person were clever enough he could guide him into purchasing a WP8 device (preferably a Nokia) to match his new hardware, closing the loop (something Apple has had great success in, I can’t count the number of times one of my Apple obsessed friends only started off with an iPod or a MacBook and now has a mini Apple Showroom at his house). Also let’s not forget that people at the Microsoft Showroom would naturally more about WP than At&t employees (at least in theory).
Another factor that should help boost Lumia sales, or at least interest in the Lumias relies on how successful Microsoft stores as a whole are; if they ever reach something close to what Apple Stores have become then good things are in store. Apple stores no longer represent a conventional “store” or a showroom, but have somehow transformed into a mini “community Hangout” where it has become very acceptable to walk in with absolutely no intent on purchasing a product, poke a round a bit then leave without getting the guilt stare-down from employees (something clothes store employees love doing). Should Microsoft stores succeed at reaching this level of community acceptance then general awareness of Lumias would be greatly boosted which would lead to a serious increase in brand awareness, and eventually increase in sales.
On the other hand this would only be effective if At&t didn’t do there best at selling the 920s (ignore the 8XX series for now); At&t has exclusivity on them, meaning it’s up to them Nokia and Microsoft to market the hell out of this phone, and so far I haven’t heard of any serious campaigning. Sure At&t put up a cute Work for Will video, but that’s no where near enough; at the 900 launch there were loads of adverts, videos, cardboard stands center store displays; and of course who could forget the “Smartphone beta Test campaign” (which interesting has had all signs of existence erased, youtube videos removed, website redirected..). But as of now I haven’t heard of nor seen any extensive campaigning, in fact At&t even blurred out the Nokia logo in their ad featuring the 920 (in blend-in-with-the-rest-of-the-world Black).
My personal thoughts are that until At&t pulls its stuff together Microsoft stores are the best bet at getting the Lumias out and about; of course there’s the tiny problem that they’re no where as common as At&t stores/showrooms which are present in every mall/plaza/square and grocery store.
What’re your thoughts on the issue? have you seen a noticeable difference in knowledge/sales expertise between the two stores? Got any pictures of what type of attention the Lumias get in each? Either post your pictures down below or email them to me at aliqmnb(at)gmail.com.