Selling use cases

Selling a dress or a pair of jeans is a safer experience when carried out in person. Particularly, there are questions of fit that leave risk to purchasers, even if that risk is only that they would have to return the goods. This is true of many physical products. However, for intangible products this is not the case. Software is good example. You no longer have to go into a shop to buy a CD-ROM of Microsoft Windows; in fact, the modern model is that you don’t need to buy it at all. It is perhaps for these reasons that the tech companies have been pioneers in experiential showrooming concepts. When there’s nothing to put on the shelf, you are selling a use case for a product, rather than selling the product itself. Although a hardware-focused business, Samsung’s store in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District is a great example of this. It hosts art, fashion, and other things that Samsung don’t sell in bid to build up their brand. Concerts, augmented reality experiences, music concerts and simulations are also on offer to the public for free. Last week, Microsoft opened its own flagship showroom on Oxford Street (its first physical store in the UK). The store is ‘designed to build connections with the local community, customers and businesses, where the public can ‘come and play, learn, create and discover’. It will feature ‘an Answer Desk’ with service support for MS products no matter where they were purchased, a ‘Community Theatre’ including educational events, and various ways to interact with MS products and software. In contemplating the reinvention of our high streets, there comes a point when one needs to ask whether this new high street format is really a shop, or rather an extension of Microsoft’s marketing and aftersales services?