The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that AT&T opened its first AT&T Experience Store in Atlanta, GA last month. The retail outlet sells everything AT&T offers from traditional landlines to wireless to U-Verse. Shoppers are offered kiosks or stations to ‘experience’ the many different products and services available to them. AT&T has other similar locations in Texas, and plans to convert many of its 2,000+ wireless retail locations to these broader experience stores. It’s an attempt to leverage their retail footprint for competitive advantage over cable.
But not so fast. The cable industry has a retail strategy of their own, and are well on their way in executing it. The recent FCC mandate for retail distribution of cable set top boxes has quickened the cable move to retail. Cable’s strategy includes partnering with national electronics retailers like Circuit City for presence in their existing stores, as well as developing cable specific retail stores with them. These respective retail strategies are taking us to a point where consumers will soon be able to experience, buy, and arrange installation of their complete communications and entertainment portfolio, including voice, video, data, and wireless in one location. For the time being, I give the advantage to cable. Their larger presence in consumer electronics retail locations allows them to leverage impulse buying among consumers who are purchasing equipment like HDTVs and DVRs. A properly executed retail strategy will bundle the services necessary to take advantage of that high performing entertainment and networking equipment.