updated 09:05 am EST, Fri November 26, 2010
MS retail hurt by few visits, non-exclusivity
Microsoft's retail stores are so far trailing significantly behind Apple's in terms of traffic and their actual content, an informal study of one store revealed. After following traffic at the Apple and Microsoft stores in the Shops at Mission Viejo mall, the LA Times saw 19 shoppers leave with purchases at the Apple location while just three did the same at Microsoft's store. A pair of interviews determined that many were leaving without purchasing because the Microsoft stores didn't have Apple's variety and in many cases were worse than other stores selling Microsoft-related goods.
"There is no exclusive product here to pull me in," shopper John Smits said. "But at the Apple Store, there's all kinds of stuff I can't get anywhere else."
Fellow shopper Lea Encarnacion added that the picks of MP3 players, which at a Microsoft store is usually focused on the Zune HD, was disappointing. The Mission Viejo store "just didn't have as much stuff in it" as the Apple store, and what was there wasn't desirable.
Microsoft has primarily treated its stores as a public image strategy and has often put them as close as possible to Apple stores to raise awareness of choices before customers choose Apple. VP David Porter argued that Microsoft stores have "choice, better value and great service," referring to the diversity of PC makers, the lower overall prices compared to Macs and the Genius Bar-like help desks. Discovery was also important as people were more likely to see technology like Kinect that they wouldn't see elsewhere.
Visitors nonetheless disagreed with not only the variety but also the pricing, which in many cases wasn't necessarily any better and was sometimes higher than at Best Buy or similar chains. Online stores also allow for more customization than what Microsoft's store could offer, defeating one of the primary advantages of a Windows system.
Microsoft hasn't treated its retail launches as aggressively as Apple and has just seven stores in the US and none abroad. Apple has over three hundred stores, most of which are in the US.