(Photo: theverge.com and theonecentre.com)
Recently, The Lab made its way to the Meatpacking District in New York City to check out Samsung’s new flagship store- Samsung 837. Samsung is calling the store the ultimate “digital playground and cultural destination,” so we knew we had to check it out for ourselves. And let me tell you, we were far from disappointed.
In appearance alone, Samsung 837 is worth the trek. The building is a combination of rustic brick and exposed modern steel. Floor-to-ceiling windows line the majority of the upper floors and a green rooftop gives visitors an unbelievable view of the Highline. Needless to say, comparing an Apple store to Samsung 837 is – well, like trying to compare apples and oranges.
Inside, a small space referred to as “Gratis” welcomes guests. This area was filled with artful displays of new Samsung smartphones, like the Galaxy S7, as well as interactive exhibits of virtual reality (VR) technology. Passing beyond the VR exhibits, we found a small theatre with padded benches and a large screen. Samsung uses this space to host free movie nights or streamed live events from SXSW. Outside of movie screenings, the screen acts as a feed for selfie mosaics using pictures taken inside 837. After doing some more wandering, we learned the first floor is dedicated to how the consumer directly interacts with the Samsung brand.
The second floor is reserved for patrons exploring the new features of Samsung’s current product line. Several long wooden “bars” were lined with Samsung tablets, smartphones and smartwatches like the Samsung Gear S2. Adjacent were lower tables with chairs where visitors could charge their own products. The final space was a “Smart Kitchen” featuring Samsung’s new refrigerator and several living rooms with couches with Samsung smart TVs as the centerpiece. If this sensory overload was wearing you down, you could recharge at the second floor’s café – unfortunately, not on the house.
Samsung 837 employees act as passionate fans of Samsung, almost like docents at a museum. They help visitors explore Samsung products casually, with suspiciously no pressure to buy. We soon learned Samsung 837 actually doesn’t sell any products. In fact, the store is completely absent of cash registers or any transaction-completing device.
No doubt, it was refreshing to be able to explore a new product without being bombarded by sales associates, and that fact also made me realize the real purpose behind the new flagship store. Samsung not only wants to offer an engaging and memorable experience, the brand wants to support an entire lifestyle, acting as a teacher or guide to all tech enthusiasts out there. Reflecting back on the experience in 837, I now have a different feeling towards Samsung- a more genuine perception of the brand that I kind of dig. Coming from a fervent Apple devotee, that says a lot.
Jonathan Simonides is a Retail Innovation Lab intern at Alcone Marketing Group.