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Retail: Where Tech and Culture Collide

Blog: Consumer

5/2/2016
— Tara Murphy 

Ever think you’d ride a roller coaster on the west side of Manhattan in the middle of a work day? You can at 837 Washington Street, where technology and culture are colliding … beautifully.

Earlier this month, several of us from the WE office in NYC visited Samsung 837, a 40,000 square foot digital playground in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

Unlike other retail stores, 837 doesn’t stock products, although you can make digital purchases onsite. Samsung’s goal is to use the loft-like space to create more of a cultural experience filled with ideas and interactions intended to entertain, stimulate and delight consumers, including the brand’s latest products in art, film, music and food.

There’s a lot I liked about the space, but some key elements stood out:

  • BRAND. Samsung’s low-stress, no-sell model encourages consumers to roam and engage with the exhibits on their terms. No pushy salespeople follow you or harp about upgrades. Have a question? No problem, the staff is ready to answer. Samsung spared no expense and created a footprint and design that is equal parts smart and breathtaking, and showcases the brand exactly the way it wants consumers to perceive it: relevant, modern and cultural.
  • SHARED EXPERIENCES. Ever want to be 30 feet tall? 837’s towering digital screen — made of 96 individual 55-inch displays, and used for film screenings and interactive images — gives you a pretty good idea! Even cooler, consumers can have their photo taken and uploaded to the screen, which is actually comprised of millions of images from across Instagram (staff will even suggest a few hashtags)!
  • PROMOTION. Full glass panes allow passersby to peek inside, piquing interest in the displays, driving foot traffic and creating photo ops. Community partnerships with local food suppliers including Smorgasbord and Stand Coffee give the store a distinctly New York flavor. Feel like it’s out of the way? No worries, Uber offers free pickups from midtown Manhattan.
  • SOCIAL SHARING. Think the giant digital screen covered social? Nope. You’ll need to slip on black shoe covers before gaining entry into the Black Egg, a hyper-immersive installation that incorporates consumers’ Instagram accounts into a reflective visual and audio experience that explores the meaning of social identity. The mirrored corridor lined with Samsung displays of all sizes creates a mesmerizing tunnel effect that looks like something out of a 3-D movie.

So what does this mean for consumers and other retail brands? As more customers shop online, brands will continue to investigate the strategic purpose of the traditional storefront and focus more on the individual consumer’s energized interaction with the physical space, the products, the broader community and, by extension, the brand. As someone who counsels our own clients on these trends and opportunities daily, I can tell you this is essential to deepening relationships with consumers.

Samsung builds upon the efforts of other brands, but raises the stakes considerably by curating a space around consumers’ cultural experiences and personal interests; focusing entirely on their interactions with the brand rather than an opportunity to simply drive onsite sales (something we can all appreciate).

837 represents a cutting-edge experiment in what the new retail experience will look like and could very well be the new retail standard.

Write us your thoughts or questions.

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