The client event I was attending in New York was held at the IBM office in midtown, just a couple of blocks from the Central Park. Nice office, even better location, if you ask me.
In the afternoon, we spent a few hours visiting several retail locations in Manhattan, courtesy of an IBMer who knows that area inside out, and was very kind to pick the cream of the crop. That was a great opportunity to get a glimpse of what retail will look in the near future by observing what’s being tried in the flagship stores. Here’s the highlight reel.
- The Cube Apple Store – I’ve been to several of those in Canada and in the U.S., but this one is special. Open 24 by 7, 365 days a year, this place is incredibly crowded during the day, so I highly suggest you go there after hours – I went twice, at 4 pm and 2 am, and had a much more civilized experience in the wee hours. The store is actually underground, and the glass cube is the street level entrance. Taking the stairs down gave me the feel that I was entering the Louvre, as the cube reminds me a lot of the pyramids by IM Pei. Somehow, this store feels like a temple dedicated to the Apple brand and technology. I posted some pictures below, but you can see much better ones, and some movies too, here.
- Niketown – Talking about Apple, the Nike store ostensively co-brands Nike+ with Apple. I’m not a runner – in fact I hate running – but this is so cool that I may even try it one day. The whole store is very well thought, from the colour palette to the overall layout and the glass tubes to transfer items from the storage rooms to the PoS (point-of-sale) stations. Other cool feature is the NIKEiD.STUDIO: you can create shoes customized to your taste and have it delivered to you – if you live in the U.S., of course.
- Nokia Flagship Store – A three-story mecca for cell-phone fans. The huge screens behind the phones are interactive: they can react to actions such as text messaging and handling of the mobile devices. Very cool and blue. You can get more details about it here.
- Citibank – As city regulations around the world become more strict towards visual pollution, retail stores are becoming more creative and using colour and shapes as brand identity clues. I just mentioned the blueness of Nokia’s store. Citibank is using the Chevron format in the façade of its branches. This particular branch is very modular, with sliding internal walls to provide ample spaces during business hours and access to ATMs only after hours. Another curiosity there is a terminal for client feedback, which was used to request a water cooler to be brought back after the branch redesign. Who would’ve thunk that clients would miss the good and old drinking fountain?
- Bank of America – This branch has two interesting features: a bookcase with finance-related books & magazines is a comfortable living room setting, and banners at the top with a timeline showing how BoA’s history is deeply ingrained in the U.S. history. I know it sounds trivial, but it was very well executed. Unfortunately no pictures could be taken inside.
- Commerce Bank – Open extended hours, including Saturdays and Sundays, this branch has some kiosks with free souvenirs (like pens) and also a coin counter game for kids: if you get the total amount right, you’re eligible for a prize.
- ING Direct Café – This is the one that blew my mind away. This is not a bank office or a branch. It’s more like a Starbucks store, including free Internet access, and it was insanely packed when we visited. Why would a bank do that? Many reasons, including probably some that I have not even thought about yet. Having coffee is a very social thing so people just go there for a break, and while in there, there are some cross-selling opportunities. In the second floor, there’s a space for people to meet or learn about financial services. What a great way to associate a pleasant experience with a strong bran. They also sell souvenirs, including toys for kids with Cedric and Amy, ING characters from Planet Orange. If you were wondering why I tagged this entry as “web20forbiz”, there is your link! You can read more about it here and here.
This was a really long post, sorry about that. I should give a prize too to anybody getting to the end of it.