Microsoft Retail Store – Sometimes Less is More

Microsoft Store Windows 8 was released late last month to fanfare and generally good reviews. The software seems to be going in the right direction integrating touch screen technologies into the entire software platform from mobile devices to desktops.  I wish the company well on this launch.  Any step that improves the user experience with the world’s most ubiquitous operating system is a step in the right direction.   

The Microsoft stores however are not software and the end result is a sad knock off of the Apple iconic stores.  Apple is about simplifying their products, simplifying the user experience, and simplifying the shopping experience. Simple is hard to do. As the famous architect Mies van der Rohe quipped – “Less is More”.  Microsoft could emulate the modern museum like quality of the Apple store with technology integrated ceilings, blond wood floors, and grey topped tables, but they couldn’t integrate their disparate pieces to make the composition more than the sum of its parts.  The store falters on the merchandising display:  too many informational panels, too many cables, and too much clutter on bench tables.  In the Apple store the tables look temple like, in the Microsoft store the merchandising looks like it’s taking up space.  Who buys software in a box anymore and why display it in a bookcase?  In The Ron Johnson designed Apple stores, the electronics are elegantly displayed and everything else (non Apple products and accessories) are hidden from view, typically in the back of the store.

Microsoft Store - InteriorBottom Line: Every market has its leaders and followers for instance Barnes & Noble led in the bookstore category where as Boarders (RIP) followed – in almost everything that B&N did from store design, to internet sales,  to eReaders.  By definition if your company is not leading its following. Even though Microsoft could copy the Apple store they couldn’t simplify the products, simplify the merchandise, or simplify the experience. Result – the company has lost a tremendous opportunity to define a unique store, brand and experience for its customers.     Store Photos by ImagineCup via Flicker.

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