Some retailers open innovation labs to test new technologies and business concepts. Other organizations, like AT&T, use flagship stores as testing grounds.
Since opening its Chicago flagship on Michigan Ave. in August 2012, AT&T has used the location as a hub to implement and analyze new store designs and interactive technologies.
“The Chicago flagship was born because there was a desire to create an immersive telecommunications experience, rather than just having cell phones lined up on the walls,” said Jonathan Lander, Director of Visual Merchandising and Strategic Retail at AT&T. “But it isn’t just a flagship that has premium customer experiences — it’s definitely our laboratory.”
Most recently, AT&T rolled out a new interactive museum designed to connect customers to its brand heritage and history of innovation.
By transforming part of the Chicago retail space into a museum, AT&T can show how the company has played an integral role in the evolution of telecommunications. Called “Journey of Innovation,” the new digital, interactive exhibit highlights the story of communication — from the patent for the first telephone, to modern mobile technologies and connected devices. A tablet serves as a virtual tour guide that assists customers as they walk along the digital gallery touting photos and video content.
“We wanted to show how AT&T has been relevant to our lives for the past 139 years,” Lander said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “So relevant, in fact, that we opened the new experience on the anniversary of when Alexander Graham Bell placed the first phone call [March 10].”
Showcasing AT&T’s thriving history was important; but it was even more paramount that the company honed in on how and why AT&T is relevant today. A series of interactive displays teach shoppers about new opportunities for women in the tech industry, how AT&T brings developers together during its hack-a-thon, and encourages customers to join its pledge to no longer text and drive.
“Customers can choose to either skim through these stories or go into great depth,” Lander said. The “Journey of Innovation” is placed strategically towards the back of the store, so consumers can navigate through the experience naturally.
“People typically visit the Michigan Ave. store to browse, or they have very specific AT&T business,” Lander noted. “This approach gives them the opportunity to browse through all products and experience, and then make their way through the ‘Journey of Innovation.’ It’s a dynamic digital space that pulls people back.”
Once consumers make their way to the “Journey of Innovation,” AT&T has the ability to track their behaviors. Using build-in analytics capabilities, the company can measure how many times consumers engage with the interactive stories and for how long. “We’ll track these over time to make necessary adjustments,” Lander explained. “This is an experience that could be placed almost anywhere, so we’re actively going to incorporate it into some of our larger stores in the future.”