Sunday, 1 February 2009

Nokia Store VS Apple Store (London)

Last week I was in London and called in at both the Nokia and Apple stores. I’m a first timer to both places and I was surprised by what I found, especially as I am a bit of a Nokia fan(boy) at heart. However Apple fans read-on you might be pleasantly surprised!
Inside the Nokia store:
Creative Commons Licence - Rafe Blandford
The Nokia store is bright and technological with amazing colour shifting translucent walls that give the place a futuristic feel. There is plenty of glass, monitors, flashing displays everywhere and a glossy slick feel to the place, it’s a bit like stepping onto the set of sci-fi movie. At the far end of the store is the mysterious looking Vertu section. Vertu is a UK subsidiary of Nokia that produce some fantastically expensive “pimped up” phones. Though that’s not how their marketing site describes them!

Around the walls of the store are all the Nokia phones in the current range, with cute little fold-up leaflets listing info and technical specs for you to take away. All the phones are available for hands on playing. If you want to compare their phones in one place it saves trawling around mobile phone shops being harassed by sales staff. Some music capable phones are also setup with headphones so you can listen
in as well. Each phone is fastened to a security stalk via a heavy cable, making it quite difficult to play with the product. Also its difficult to judge the weight of product in the hand, which is an important factor when buying new technology. I was pleased to see loads of the new Nokia 5800's xpressmusic phone available for customers to test, it launched a couple of weeks ago (see bottom for links to coverage). Staff were polite and one of them asked me if I needed help so I can’t fault them there. There were quite a few alarms going off whilst I visited, and no it wasn’t me who set them off! Though I did get the feeling that I was being watched. So an impressive store, with high tech feel, plenty of products to play with but few actual customers on the day.

Inside the Apple store:
Creative Commons Licence - Jon Rawlinson
The Apple Store over the road is big and spacious. Giant white Apple symbols decorate the windows looking over the high-street from the beautifully restored, light and spacious building. The first thing you see is the enormous glass staircase that takes up the centre of the store, the glass theme continues where a section of the floor upstairs. Its quite scary to see the shadowy figures of people moving below you through the frosted glass.

Oodles of Apple equipment is laid out on tables and the chairs are all taken with people using the products. In fact the whole store is packed with people. The atmosphere was more like a festival. There is a buzz, a feeling of excitement; people are engaging with the products, in an excited fervor. Upstairs at the back, a man waves his arms excitedly in front of rows of seated people sitting with their Macbooks learning about Apple products. The store events leaflet has news about future visits from Stephen Fry and Eddie Izzard. Young friendly people in bright orange t-shirts welcome the faithful to the store with a cheery smile. Like the Nokia store the products themselves are secured to the desk with cables but the Apple ones are thin and discrete and don’t interfere with your ability to play.

There were books, accessories, magazines, and almost every available Apple product available to try and buy in bright cheerful surroundings. Rows of iPod touches are paired with gorgeous but expensive Bose headphones and there are queues of people waiting to play with the iPhone 3Gs. I left the store feeling better about Apple and amazed at the people enjoying their shopping experience.

The cynical voice in me says that these people were Apple-fans blindly consuming Apple products. I think it goes further than that though. Apple is clearly selling products to an enthusiastic and devoted audience, even if the products are not always as revolutionary as they like to think , they are well designed and marketed.   More crucially the way they sell and market the product is attracting people to their lifestyle, people want to associate themselves with Apple, and they want to consume the Apple brand. The atmosphere in store reinforces this. If Nokia want to remain at the top they need to take note.
More info Vertu phones: