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Selling the Surface tablet at Best Buy

December 21, 2012

Microsoft finds themselves in a tricky situation. On one hand, expanding the distribution channel for their new Surface tablet makes great sense. On the other hand, the quality and knowledge of the sales team is so dramatically reduced. Now, I am not trying to degrade Best Buy sales persons. However, what do you expect to see when you take a slightly less experienced sales person and combine that with a requirement to know hundreds of products instead of only the products Microsoft makes? Clearly, quality will be reduced.

First, at a Microsoft store, the message is likely to be more factual when talking about the specific Microsoft products. Next, presentation is going to be controlled better. Case in point, this past week, I went by the local Best Buy location and I was absolutely disgusted by what I saw. The Microsoft Surface was tucked away over by the smart phones. It wasn’t that the display was so bad, after all, the Surface was nicely placed next to a Windows phone. The only problem, nobody looking for a computer would have gone to the cell phone section to find one. Of course, anyone looking for a computer, would have gone to the computer section. Unfortunately, no Surface tablet was to be found there. AWESOME!

To make matters worse, when you go look at the computer section, which has been changed pretty substantially over the last several years. Now, there is a dedicated “Apple” section of the store. This section of the store is immaculately configured to show the products. Computers, iPads and accessories, all organized together in a way that seems simple. There are only about 8-10 computers, so the choices seem simple, organized and easy.

Compare that with the “PC” section of the store. Now, the PC section is littered with Android tablets, full PC’s (some touch and some not), Laptops (some touch and some not), hybrid laptops/tablets are on the same table as the cheaper Android counterparts without any distinction as to why they are different prices. Also, on top of the bigger section, there is another section with what appears to be “older” PC’s, but again, they aren’t organized in any way that really makes shopping easy. The only differentiator for these outcast devices, price.

I am sorry, but when I compare these sections of the store, it’s not even close. The Apple section is so much simpler. So much easier to navigate. If I were a buyer with no idea what I was looking for, I would be very tempted in the Apple part of the store. Of course, when I see the price tag of the Apple products and then notice that there are no touchscreen devices, it would cause me to wonder over to the other section. But truthfully, prices are getting closer together and I would expect that Apple is probably not too far behind on getting a touch interface that will work.

Overall, I get the idea of expanding the distribution channel for the Surface. It’s a great product and it should sell. However, does it really control the message when you go to a place like Best Buy? Will the sales staff really be able to explain Surface RT? Truthfully, if educated correctly, Best Buy could sell the heck out of all the Windows RT devices because they could put together bundles of desktops and Windows RT devices. They could correctly show how great the products work together. They could show you how to save money for a “laptop/tablet” that will seamlessly integrate with a desktop and as a byproduct have all of the full desktop capabilities. The problem is, well, they won’t.

What do you think? Is Microsoft making a mistake opening up the distribution channel? Is there any chance they can strengthen the message for Best Buy to incent the sales team at Best Buy to sell their product?

Over the next couple weeks, I will try to get some pictures to post. What do you think? What is your experience shopping at Best Buy?

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