and Peg Pruitt check out the Nexus 7 tablet at the
Westfield Galleria in Roseville, Calif., on
December 5, 2013. Google has set up six of these
temporary locations to give potential customers a
hands-on feel for new products.
Calif. — The glowing winter wonderland inside the mall
here, adorned with fake snow and pulsing with electronic
music, beckons weary holiday shoppers. But there’s no
Santa, and no elves; instead, tablets and laptops are
the lure of Google Inc.’s high-tech holiday display.
and other leading tech giants — Amazon.com Inc., SAP
AG, Intel Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp.
— are opening retail pop-up stores,
stores-within-stores, mall kiosks and showrooms, even
outfitting tour buses with their latest gadgets, to ramp
up sales during the crucial holiday shopping season.
Inspired and challenged by Apple’s successful retail
stores, the companies hope to convert tech-skeptical
consumers into gadget buyers by letting them swipe, type
and tinker with the new technology, experts say.
every sale, these companies are learning, can be made
have to be where the public goes and frequents, and that’s
the mall," said David Johnson, chief executive
officer of Strategic Vision, a Georgia-based branding
firm. "Your tech geeks are going to order online.
But before you’re going to see mass consumption,
people are going to want to touch the products."
more big tech companies add consumer gadgets to their
product lineup and compete with Apple, which has an
ever-growing footprint of flourishing stores, they’ll
also add more pop-up displays to show off those gadgets,
allowing consumers to interact with tech in a personal
way, experts say.
in retail has looked at Apple in the last few years to
try and replicate what they’ve done," said
Stephen Baker, an analyst with The NPD Group. "If
you are dabbling in hardware you have to be in front of
Alto, Calif.-based HP added mini-stores inside two
locations of the Nebraska Furniture Mart, and had a
pop-up store and restaurant in New Zealand for the 2011
Rugby World Cup. Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., has
opened the Intel Experience Store in Chicago, Los
Angeles and New York, showcasing HP detachable laptops
that run Intel processors. EBay Inc. the San Jose,
Calif.-based e-commerce company that started as an
auction website, last month put up large touch-screen
panels on the walls at Westfield San Francisco Center.
Consumers can shop from three interactive glass screens
powered by mobile technology.
and SAP, the German software giant, have each taken
retail displays on the road — HP is running a
truckload of gadgets and demos across the country,
making stops in cities that include San Francisco, Palo
Alto, Dallas and Chicago. SAP built a bus to showcase
its cloud services, mobile technology and data
applications. It has since parked the bus at 61 events,
including the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San
Francisco and a football tailgate party in Detroit.
kind of looks like an Apple store," said Byron
Banks, vice president of product marketing at SAP’s
Palo Alto office. "It has iPads on it. It has touch
screens on it."
doesn’t sell gadgets like Apple, but it does provide
the software for more than 250,000 big businesses and
agencies, many of which make and sell everyday consumer
products such as cosmetics and hardware parts.
closer we are to consumers and people on the street, the
better able we are to do our job," Banks said.
say most tech giants won’t open full stores like
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple — retail space is
expensive, and unless you have a wide product selection
it would be hard to fill. Holiday installations and
pop-up stores give companies the flexibility to move
around and avoid hiring full-time retail staff.
long-term commitments, no long leases," said Larry
Chiagouris, a consumer behavior and marketing expert at
Pace University. "You can be in Palo Alto today and
you can be in San Jose tomorrow."
that’s not to say throwing up the Google Winter
Wonderlab at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville was
easy. The Wonderlab workers said the setup took about
three days and required extensive sound engineering and
installing additional Internet networks to support the
games, music and videos that run on the tablets.
main attraction is the 13 1/2-foot illuminated snow
globe structure, where customers, decked out in Google-supplied
Santa costumes and holiday props, can make their own
slow-motion video set to music. The camera in the snow
globe captures a second and a half of film that is
slowed down to about 15 seconds, creating a Matrix-like
effect, and the video is uploaded to YouTube.
customers come for the moviemaking but are asked to stay
for a one-on-one demo on Google’s second-generation
Nexus 7. Computers are set up for shoppers to buy the
tablet, as well as a Chromebook laptop or Google’s
streaming media device, the Chromecast, and have it
home-delivered. Still, despite the many sales pitches
shoppers get at Wonderlab, Google insists the labs are
not stores, but "an interactive way to experience
all of Google’s gadgets." "They don’t want
people to think they’re stores because then they just
become another retailer," Johnson said.
"Because then they become like Best Buy."
too, insisted that its recent Kindle pop-ups at the
Westfield San Francisco Center were not stores, although
they sold Kindle tablets and accessories from a vending
machine. The pop-ups at a handful of malls — the San
Francisco location was taken down the first week of
December — were designed to promote the new Kindle
Paperwhite e-reader, an Amazon spokeswoman said.
purpose of these pop-ups, buses and kiosks is not
necessarily to sell, but to convince consumers who don’t
own a tablet, laptop or smartphone to reconsider.
who are a little tech-averse or lacking tech confidence,
it makes them go into a place physically and touch the
hardware and see it," Chiagouris said. "It
does accelerate the adoption process."
and Kamal Bhalrhu of Antelope, Calif., stopped by the
Google Wonderlab in Roseville one afternoon last week.
They said don’t own a tablet, but after their young
son spent a delightful few minutes playing on the Nexus
7, they were considering buying it.
all visitors were persuaded. Terry Darvin of Citrus
Heights, Calif., stopped by to make a video in the igloo
and hear the Nexus 7 spiel, but wasn’t in the mood to
buy. Darvin said he retired from the Navy SEALs eight
months ago after 30 years working in military
intelligence, and was ready for a break from technology.
didn’t sell me on anything," he said.
TECH RETAIL EXPERIENCES:
Corp.: Intel partnered with HP and other hardware
manufacturers to create the Intel Experience Store,
which sells HP Split and Pavilion laptops. Stores are in
Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.
Co.: HP has small stores set up inside two locations of
the Nebraska Furniture Mart, in Omaha, Neb., and Des
Moines, Iowa. HP also has mini-stores within stores on
the East Coast, and pop-ups in shopping centers
throughout the U.S. and Latin America.
large truck touring the country, called the HP Holiday
Joyride, promotes the company’s new technology and
offer deals on laptops and other gadgets for the
Inc.: Created the Google Winter Wonderlab in several
malls for the holiday season. The displays feature
Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, Chromebooks and the
Chromecast, a USB-sized digital media player. Visitors
can play games or videos on the tablets and create a
personalized, slow-motion holiday video set to music
that is filmed inside a snow globe.
AG: Built a bus in August called the Big Data Express
that offers an interactive experience with technology
from SAP, which is based in Germany. The bus includes
tablets and touch screens that visitors can use to
experience SAP applications, cloud services and mobile
technology. It has been touring the country, hitting 61
events from TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco to a
Detroit Lions football game and corporate events.
Inc.: Put up digital storefronts in Westfield San
Francisco Center, which shoppers can browse and buy from
giant touch screens inside the mall. Each of the three
screens displays inventory from different retailer —
Sony, Toms and Rebecca Minkoff — and shoppers browse
items and a select their purchases by touching the
glass, and then check out and pay from a smartphone. The
digital stores, which will remain up until Jan. 12, use
eBay technology that includes connected glass panels,
mobile technology and digital payments systems.
Corp.: Has 51 permanent retail stores and 31 pop-up
stores, several of which go up for the holidays. It will
build another 19 permanent and pop-up locations by the
end of 2014.
Inc.: Has more than 250 full retail stores in the
country and about 165 stores outside the U.S.