Welcome to the the Ivey HBA Retail Marketing Management blog. Retail marketing is an exciting, dynamic, important, and very visible aspect of the overall field of marketing. Throughout the year, students will be posting comments regarding contemporary retailing issues. Although this is intended to be used by Bus 4411 students, industry marketing professionals are also invited to join in if they like.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

You can’t compare Apples to Oranges, what about Apples to Microsofts?

Personally I am a huge Apple advocate, my theory is “once you go Mac, you don’t go back” and I stand by it. Apple is known for their innovative products from both a stylish and technology perspective. They manufacture and market computers, accessories and operating systems for their devices. Microsoft on the other hand is the computer company who USED to be the “go to” computer company for consumers, they distribute operating systems, software and computer accessories, however, they do not manufacture or sell computers. [1]

An article in the New York Times [2] describes Microsoft’s plan to open up a retail store in order to compete with Apple’s perfect retail amusement park. Microsoft’s goal is to “improve the PC- buying experience”, and to assist consumers in making more informed decisions regarding their technology purchases. In my opinion Microsoft is going to have to really step up their game in order to achieve anywhere close to the same effectiveness that Apple stores have had on its branding.

The Apple store’s retail value proposition is by far driven by the experience a consumer obtains by stepping foot inside. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of experiencing it, let me give you a brief description. No matter what time of day you decide to go and browse the store, there will always be a crowd of people inside. With that being said there is NEVER an issue finding staff to help you (not to mention they are always wearing bright colours). Whether you are an Apple know-it-all or an amateur computer user, the staff are always extremely friendly and knowledgeable about all their products and services. Relationship building, service and the high quality products that they produce drive their retail operation, which is why consumers have accepted the premium price on their merchandise.

Now I will describe why I feel Microsoft may have difficulty entering the retail market. My first concern is that they are not a computer manufacturer; therefore they will most likely display HP, Sony or Lenovo computers in order to show consumers their already diluted and less favorable operating system, Vista or software such as the Microsoft Office suite. This experience can be obtained at your local Best Buy. My second issue is what kind of services are they actually going to provide. Will they supply technical support? I don’t think it would make that much sense since the majority of support is in the hardware, which they don’t manufacture. Finally, not to mention how saturated the Microsoft brand is, you can obtain their products at any electronic retailer, small or big. However, Apple products are much more exclusive.

In order for Microsoft to compete with Apple, they need to ensure that their stores contain innovative technology, gadgets which have yet to be released. Their service also needs to be impeccable, they will need to provide “Microsoft Office and Vista” experts on site as well as staff that are available to meet with current Microsoft consumers in order to enrich their already boring Microsoft experience.

Microsoft is great at what they do; however they are attempting to enter a territory that has already been dominated by the BIG bitten apple. I hope Microsoft remembers who they are competing with as well as what type of economy we are currently in. With that being said this can be a great opportunity for them to jump on the super innovation bandwagon and produce some futuristic consumer products.


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