The Real Key to Dell’s Retail Success
Much of the tech media is suffering from memory loss today. Many bloggers and so-called journalists are reporting that Dell is moving into retail for the first time. Actually, Dell has made this move before and the results weren’t pretty. Will the outcome be different this time around? Perhaps. Here’s why.
Sure, Dell’s PCs will soon be available via Wal-Mart. But as any CostCo member will tell you, Dell’s PCs are widely available through that Big Box retailer. And in the early 1990s, Dell briefly put its PCs on store shelves before retreating because of poor inventory management.
This time around, Dell will need to learn positive and negative lessons from its peers. Most notably: Apple and Gateway. The VAR Guy still remembers visiting his local Gateway store a few years ago, only to be greeted by sales people who didn’t understand the company’s products. These days, The VAR Guy goes to Apple’s stores because they are filled with unique, reliable, innovative products — Apple TV, iMacs, Mac Minis, MacBooks and soon the iPhone. And Apple gurus are eager to answer your every question.
Alas, that approach won’t be possible in Wal-Mart because Big Box retailers aren’t staffed to offer personalized service. But Dell could find some sort of hybrid approach. One thought: Send Dell’s own employees into the stores for demo days. Another thought: Sell a few pre-configured PCs on Dell’s web site, and allow customers to pick up those purchases at Wal-Mart locations for same-day service.
If Dell merely pushes Windows PCs filled with craplets into the retail channel, the company will do no better than any of its PC rivals.
Ultimately, the retail push is only a small piece of Dell’s turnaround strategy. The PC giant must double-down on its server, storage and mobility efforts in the enterprise. And Dell must continue to work more closely with application providers to offer bundled solutions.
As for The VAR Guy, he’s still waiting for Dell to officially introduce its Ubuntu PCs.