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Stores have 'product ecosystem' role says Samsung design chief

Some retail sectors have “gone from the age of efficiency to the age of experience”, and are having to learn new ways to communicate with customers in a new context, according to Samsung vice president of retail design Alan Robles.

Robles was speaking at Infocomm 2019 in Florida, last week, in a session called Reimaging Retail With Insights from the Experience Index. The session was co-hosted by Megan Lubaszka, creative media leader at Gensler.

Gensler has been seeking to categorise retail experiences, and to measure and put values on them in an index – some examples of which Lubaszka shared.

Speaking about Samsung’s developing store network, Robles said that the technology brand is learning lessons with every store it opens about what customers want and expect. This includes facing fundamental questions about what the stores are for, he says.

“The way we are approaching retail is that we are not focused so much on where you buy the product, so much as on creating the great products,” Robles told the Infocomm audience. ”We need to make stores perform from a product ecosystem point of view.”

For example, Samsung sees an upturn in sales of its phones by independent retailers in the vicinity of its own flagship stores, said Robles. But this means that conventional measures of success can be less appropriate to stores now, and may be even less appropriate in the future, he suggested.

“For a commerce store you need a stable context. But because of the information age, people can create their own context wherever they are, and wherever they want it to be. Our universe is becoming a lot more self-centred, and that’s a challenge for businesses. We need to help customers establish relationships with what we make,” he said.

For Samsung, this means that physical stores must be relevant to their location. Stores that may work in the US would not necessarily work elsewhere, said Robles. But within countries, or even within cities, different approaches would be needed. He cited the Samsung store in the Arts District of Los Angeles: “Put something there that is out of context and it will fail.”

And Robles conceded that some challenges have not yet been overcome. “Spaces need to be flexible and adaptable and yet still be a recognisable brand environment. How do you do that?” he asked.

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