Samsung to Open Kiosks in Best Buy Stores, Aims Again at Apple?

Samsung to Open Kiosks in Best Buy Stores, Aims Again at Apple?

Samsung plans to open 1,400 dedicated shops in Best Buy stores by early this summer.

Wait, Samsung copying Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL)? Now where have we heard that before? This time, unless Apple holds a patent for kiosk design (don’t laugh, it holds some store layout patents), Samsung’s new foray into the retail world—starting this month with a foot-in-the-water approach at 1,400 Best Buy stores—likely won’t raise an eyebrow in Cupertino. Here's why ...

With plans to roll out 900 Samsung Experience Shops at Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile specialty stores by early May, the Korean device maker is diving headlong into the IT retail world now dominated by Apple and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) as the only store players of significance. A Bloomberg report said the first wave of stores will open April 8 and Samsung confirmed plans for the remaining 500 shops to be operational by early this summer. The shops will vary in size with the largest at about 460 square feet, featuring an area dedicated to showcasing how Samsung’s mobile devices connect and share content across multiple screens.

Samsung said it will offer its entire mobile lineup at the Experience Shops, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, connected cameras and accessories. The point of the retail expansion is to allow customers to handle and play with Samsung's mobile products, in particular to see how they fit together before making a purchase decision.

“With the Samsung Experience Shops, we are ensuring consumers get the most of that innovation by learning how to leverage their mobile devices across our ecosystem of consumer electronics,” said Dale Sohn, president of Samsung Telecommunications America.

“Consumers will have one place to not only explore and learn about our full portfolio of mobile products, but also the support of a Samsung expert to help with selecting and servicing them. This will truly be a unique mobile shopping experience,” he said.

Some of the stores will include special Samsung service consultants—teaming with Best Buy sales associates—tasked with offering customers product demos, basic product services, account setup, warranty registration and after-sale support.

For Best Buy’s part, the retailer said that the Samsung kiosks are part of a companywide strategy to leverage vendor partnerships to update their stores to focus more on profitable product categories. To distinguish its retail profile from competitors, Best Buy wants to position its stores as venues for customers to examine hardware and software, and benefit from sales and service assistance. Samsung is part of that initiative.

“This is part of our Renew Blue transformation strategy—working closely with vendor partners to innovate and drive value, while also updating our stores to focus on growing and profitable categories,” said Shawn Score, Best Buy U.S. Retail head.

For the record, Apple has about 400 stores and also sells its gear at Best Buy but does not offer vendor-supplied customer assistance. According to Apple, nearly 400 million potential customers walked into those stores in 2012. Whether Samsung can register a threat to Apple’s retail dominance armed with 1,400 outlets in Best Buys, the largest of which is less than 500 square feet—well, let’s just say there’s some work to be done before Apple begins to quake in its boots.

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