Samsung Doesn’t Get It

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During my trip to NYC this week, I spent a day visiting a number of retail “flagship”and concept stores. Obviously the Apple store on 5th Ave was on the list and it was everything the hype promised. The last “store” that I visited, was the Samsung Experience located in the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle. In today’s rant, I want to share some thoughts on how these two companies approach customers.

I am a tourist’s tourist with the camera always on (and flash off so that I don’t annoy others). I like to capture my trips so that I can share with others. As we all know from the exploding growth of social media, I am not alone here. Walking through the Apple store, I took over 100 photographs and recorded videos of their digital signage. I was approached by several Apple employees, each asking me if I had any questions or if I needed help with anything. Not once was I asked to stop taking pictures. The store actively promotes hands-on interaction. Apple clearly understands that the customer is in control and they are there to help them achieve the things they want to do, including taking photographs. They know those photos will likely end up on the net, and they don’t see that as a problem. For Apple, the store belongs to the customer and when I was there, the customers were having lots of fun!

I should point out that I also had free reign at the Nokia store, which was by far the most engaging experience of the trip. I’ll save the details for a later post, but the people that worked there were actually assisting me in getting som of the shots that I wanted!

The Samsung Experience was something completely different. An absolutely beautiful space, the Samsung experience draws you in with a giant touch sensitive table in the atrium outside the doors, which displays interactive maps, RSS feeds, and videos of New York neighborhoods. From the outside, you can tell that Samsung has spared no expense on this venue. They have the latest in technology that the average consumer hasn’t even dreamed of and it’s designed to be interactive with audio walking tours. Its a museum for high tech consumer electronics, and when I go to museums, I take my camera.

Unfortunately, Samsung doesn’t want you to capture digital memories of their “experience”. I was able to capture only one picture before I was quitely, but firmly told that picture taking was not allowed. I wasn’t greeted or asked if I could be helped; I was just told to stop.  I explained that I worked for Circuit City (a very big customer of Samsung’s products) and that I wanted to share their concept store with my co-workers. To that, I was handed a business card that gave the URL for the store’s website.  I was told that there were pictures there, but a subsequent check of the site proved that statement to be false. Great “Experience”.  After this encounter, the biggest thing that I noticed (besides the 80″plasma) was that the “Experience” had all this technology in it, but very few people.

The Samsung Experience clearly operates on a different business model than Apple or Nokia. Their focus is on their products (look at us, aren’t we cool).  Apple’s focus is on the customer (let us help you to get the most out of whatever you are passionate about).  Ironically, Samsung sells all kinds of products that capture pictures and video, but won’t allow you to use those devices inside their “Experience”.  Apple doesn’t sell cameras or picture phones (yet), but they don’t have any problem with you using them in their store.

The bottom line is that Samsung doesn’t really get the whole “customer is in control”, social media thing.  I walked into the store really excited about “experiencing” the store, but after being challenged, I had very little desire to spend any more time in the store.  I made a quick pass through and left. That’s unfortunate because the store has the potential to be really great place.

2 comments so far

  1. […] this weekend’s NY Times reminded me of a similar exercise that I did a few months back with Samsung and Nokia.  In his article, Stross compares experiences at both Apple and Sony’s Style stores […]

  2. Jennifer on

    Just a thought, but maybe asking permission first would have saved you the embarrassment of being told to stop taking pictures. I was recently on a school trip to a Sony store and the management had no problem w/ us taking pictures but we asked permission beforehand. Some of these retailers are very aware of the competition sending “spies” in to scope out the design of the space to later copy it.


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