You may think that moving into consumer electronics would be a huge change in direction for the giant furnishing retailer but really it’s a logical next step.

By now we’re all used to the retail experience of many consumer electronic stores. From Apple’s sleek tables of iPads, iPhones and iMacs to the aisles of Currys’ TVs, Laptops, Cameras and white goods. These stores display individual products in category groups but AT&T say they’ve got it all wrong.

Is this the ‘new’ mantra for retailers?

AT&T says retailers should be offering solutions, not transactions.

“In our prior merchandising scheme, we offered smartphones and accessories in different parts of the store. That’s not a solution. It’s a transaction. If we put them together to show how they work, now we have a solution,”
says Paul Roth head of retail at AT&T.

These solutions are what AT&T are referring to as ‘experience zones’. For example, in one zone customers will see a Nissan Leaf connected car and get to experience the interaction between the car and AT&T’s smart phones. This includes features such as monitoring the battery charge and being able to find the nearest charging station.

In the music zone, a customer will see smartphones surrounded by various speakers. A customer can play music on a smartphone and move the sound from speaker to speaker. By doing so they’ll be able to experience how each speaker would sound in their home.

AT&T’s research is backed up by Jonathan Levitt, Chief Marketing Officer at Opinion Lab, who says

“The store will become a far more social and exciting setting with new levels of interplay, interaction and value, creating a new kind of destination that brings the energy and appeal of the nightclub or art gallery into the retail game.”

But AT&T are a little behind

IKEA have been offering solutions and experience zones for decades. With “The IKEA Experience” you follow a predetermined path on an adventure around their many different showrooms. Each showroom is its own experience zone where IKEA products are displayed in their “natural environment”.

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So if you’re shopping for a new kitchen table then you’ll find a number of tables setup within the setting of a kitchen. This allows

Added to that Paul Steinberg, Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer at Motorola Solutions, predicts that

“In 2014, the experience will be a retailer’s biggest differentiator and the physical store will be the significant channel for shopping activity.” (Retail TouchPoints: Technology Predictions for 2014)

Here’s how IKEA could really dominate consumer electronics

If AT&T are now paving the way for technology companies to turn their stores into ‘experience zones’ then maybe we’ll see IKEA take notice and begin to sell consumer electronics alongside it’s furniture.

It wouldn’t take much for IKEA to add TVs to their living room and bedroom showrooms. Or microwaves, fridge freezers and kettles to their kitchens. They’re perfectly positioned to do this and have the experience to make AT&T’s experience zones look like an afterthought.

Over to you

Do you think IKEA will start selling consumer electronics? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

[Featured Image – Flickr Creative Commons]