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CompUSA Blurring the Lines between Brick and Mortar and Online Retail Shopping

Recently I had the benefit of touring CompUSA’s new flagship facility in Plantation, Florida (http://www.compusa.com/retailstores/compusaStores/plantation.asp). We were given a special presentation and tour by Gilbert Fiorentino (Chief Executive – Technology Products Group) of the stores creative new interactive shopping capabilities.

The store itself on first glance was not much different than any other electronics store. They had rows of large screen LCD TVs, desk top and laptop computers, end caps of digital camera, and so on. But when you look closer you’ll notice that every component is also connected to or attached to the internet where you can find the answers to all of your questions about the products specs, features, and comparison to similar products. In fact the internet access is not restricted to show only CompUSA products but allows the user to freely surf other non-offensive sites including their competitor’s websites. Mr. Fiorentino proudly proclaimed that he was happy to allow his customers to shop Best Buy (which there’s a store located across the street) as he feels confident in the end they will come back to CompUSA for their purchases.

The interactivity of the online super store was not only a benefit to the consumer, but also to the stores employees so that they will never be at a loss when trying to answer a customer’s questions about a product. The sales reps no longer need to be specialized in a given category or a master of all, rather just savvy enough to navigate the companies website to find the answers needed.

Yet the best part of all is that the customer is not restricted to purchasing only the items carried in the store. In fact from the same internet connected kiosk where they are checking the specs on the latest digital cameras or TV’s they can also navigate to any of the thousands of products CompUSA sells online including duplicators and purchase on the spot with free shipping direct to the customer’s home. For those customer’s that don’t feel comfortable paying with a credit card online, they can go directly to a cashier and make their purchase safely and easily.

I tested it myself searching some of the various products we offer through CompUSA like:

http://www.compusa.com/applications/SearchTools/search.asp?keywords=vinpower&searchbtn.x=0&searchbtn.y=0

http://www.compusa.com/applications/SearchTools/search.asp?keywords=xerox+duplicator&searchbtn.x=0&searchbtn.y=0

http://www.compusa.com/applications/SearchTools/search.asp?keywords=optical+quantum&searchbtn.x=0&searchbtn.y=0

Before there were set boundaries between the tangible convenience of brick and mortar stores and the low cost expansive world of internet shopping, now those lines have been blurred and it’s ultimately to the customer’s benefit.

Having a Good Time at a Trade Show

Trade shows are not all serious, it’s also a good opportunity to build relationships and have a good time. As shown in the image below, Alec is having a good time as we break the tension in our boardroom with some lighthearted humor.

alec-at-retail-vision.jpg

Trade Show Create New Opportunities

Some look at trade shows as great opportunities or even necessary evils while others see them as unnecessary and a misdirection of marketing funds. It really all depends on your target audience and your companies marketing and sales strategy. For us, trade shows are both necessary and a tremendous opportunity for future business development and potential sales possibilities.

Vinpower Digital is a hybrid company where we function in two worlds; as a manufacturer developing products and components for other companies in the digital duplication field as well as a distributor of duplication accessories and peripherals like blank media. It is for this reason that trade shows are so important in our strategic marketing approach.

Recently we attended both the NAB trade show in Las Vegas, NV and Retail Vision in Boca Raton, FL over a course of two weeks. The NAB show is more consumer driven and focuses on all elements of broadcasting which duplication is a major element in this industry. So NAB is beneficial in creating greater awareness for consumers of our product range. Retail Vision is more focused on B2B business which allows us to interface directly with buyers and purchasing agents for various brick and mortar and web based retail sites. In order to achieve the best market penetration, it’s imperative that we work with as many partner sales channels as possible without cannibalizing our customer base. So reaching working with these various retail venues which all have strong customer bases, we can maximize our sales and opportunities.

Of course trade shows are not for everyone. If a company has a comfortable base and is not looking to expand or focuses more on their niche sales channel than volume business, those marketing funds could be better applied toward other services or outlets. But regardless of whether your company is big or small, participating in the right focused trade shows could be the difference between expansion or stagnation/contraction.

The only warning I have for those looking to expand their business through trade shows; firstly make sure the customer base is appropriate for your product line or else it’s a complete waste of time and money. Secondly, it’s no miracle elixir. Creating a strong channel takes time and repeated impressions, participating in one trade show may not be enough to rocket sales, it may take repeat impressions over a period of time to really have the impact necessary.