This week, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) introduced its first "Destination Store," which showcases ways to integrate wireless products with a user's lifestyle, among other services. The new store, part of a larger revamp coming to all Verizon retail locations, is an attempt to build brand loyalty among users.
Verizon's move is an example of a larger trend of tech and wireless companies seeking to duplicate Apple's retail success -- and an attempt to set itself apart from the wireless pack.
More than just stores
Verizon's destination store opened in the Mall of America in Minnesota and offers customers five distinct "zones" for fitness, music, gaming, and business, as well as home and energy. The goal of the stores is to educate consumers about mobile devices and services, and to offer workshops, tech support, and demonstrations.
The company plans to open up other destination stores, and to convert its 1,700 U.S. retail locations into smaller versions of the destinations stores, called "smart stores."
Verizon is following in the footsteps of Microsoft and Samsung in trying to recreate Apple's retail success. Recently, even Intel announced it would open stores geared to community events. Part of Verizon's ambition is to grow sales at its retail locations and enhance its brand, and it's not a bad strategy.
One thing Verizon could accomplish with its stores is to raise customer smartphone satisfaction rates. Though the company has received generally positive customer service ratings lately, a J.D. Power report last month showed Verizon placed at the bottom of the wireless carrier list for overall satisfaction with smartphone devices. A physical location where customers can ask questions and play with devices could certainly help with this issue. In the past, wireless stores were places you picked up a device that wasn't even turned on and tried to decide if you wanted to buy it. That was a bad way to make customers happy. The new Verizon stores will be places where users can interact with devices before making a purchase.
U.S. wireless carriers are beginning to offer similar network speeds and coverage, as well as selling many of the same mobile devices. This makes it all the more important for these companies to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. Verizon is the nation's largest carrier by customers, and the new stores may be an attempt at increasing loyalty and device satisfaction. With carriers fighting vigorously for customer attention, the destination stores are just another step for Verizon in keeping its No. 1 spot.