By Patrick Avenell
Christmas shoppers entering Westfield Bondi Junction this weekend are going to get an aesthetic surprise. The first thing you see when you enter off Oxford Street is a new Acer Experience Stand, the first of its type in Australia.
Opening today concurrently with a stand at Castle Towers at Castle Hill, Acer’s stand is directly opposite the Zara store and in front of Nespresso’s stand.
"This is not a plastic hit-and-run kiosk that comes in
and goes out the next day"
– David Sunton, Acer GM of Marketing.
On four "stone benchtop" tables sit a variety of desktop PCs, Ultrabooks and tablet computers. Acer staff in blue t-shirts and jeans patrol the area, encouraging shoppers to visit, to touch and feel the gadgets on display. There is a distinctive Apple Store vibe to the set up – Apple Lite anyway – but with one big difference: there are no cash registers.
“We’re not about selling at these stands,” stressed David Sunton, Acer’s GM of marketing. “There are no sales terminals but what we do have is a printer on the stand. Once the customer says they like the product they want to buy it, we say, ‘There’s Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and Dick Smith in this centre’.
“We’ll print out the product name, the description, the representative here and the date; fold it up, put it in an envelope and send them off to the nearest store.”
The purpose of the stand is to highlight Acer’s mid-to-high-end products in an open space. While Acer’s retailers offer a wide variety of brands on a limited number of shelves, Acer now has the ability to showcase its premium range in what Sunton calls an “uncluttered, clean environment”. The dedicated team working the stands can then guide customers in features and benefits.
“We provide a lot of the marketing material for the retailers, but we put up the stand here so people can actually have the expertise of our staff to explain the key user benefits of our products,” said Sunton, citing the troubles some users might have installing and using Windows 8 as an example.
Acer is not the first computer supplier to open a dedicated brand presence in storeland. While Apple is the most famous, there is also Samsung’s Experience Centre in Sydney’s CBD and Sony Centres, which are variously operated by Bing Lee and VideoPro. With this trend more likely to increase than dissipate, we asked Sunton if they were becoming necessities.
“If a brand has a significant presence and can offer improved product experience and customer experience, then I think they should,” he said.
“There is much more to Acer than just really cool products; we also have fast, responsive customer service. And we now have this area for training, so if people want to learn more about Windows 8, we can do that.
“It’s about the brand experience. The touchpoint of using Acer has to catered for from presale all the way to after sales.
“I can’t comment on other people’s brands, but Acer believes that we’ve got a lot to offer.”
An artist's mock-up of the stand. Our full image gallery is here.
If there’s one thing that makes retailers nervous, it’s a brand selling directly. The first thing Harvey Norman GM Ben McIntosh said when I asked for his view on Acer Experience Stands was, “It’s a good thing if they are not selling and they are passing customers on.
“If they are wanting to show off the experience of their products, I don’t see anything wrong with that, Especially considering they are not selling and they are passing it on to the retailers.”
In a statement to Current.com.au, a Dick Smith spokesperson said, “Dick Smith’s relationship with Acer remains the same. It’s business as usual for Dick Smith and Acer".
Sunton made it clear, and did not prevaricate, in his commitment to Acer not selling directly on these stands, though he did say the plans were shared in advance with Acer’s retail partners.
“Our account managers approached our retailers and explained that this is to position our brand into the mid-to-high-end range and to demonstrate.
“Some are supportive and some are saying, ‘let’s just see how it goes’. The feedback I got from the sales team was that people were saying, ‘What does that mean?’, others say, ‘The more you can talk about your brand and the more you can elevate your brand, the better for the whole industry’.”
The timing of this development — right before Christmas — prompted Current.com.au to ask about the permanence of stand. Sunton was adamant it would still be in place well after Santa had come and gone.
“This is a very intense longterm investment for us — we have trained the staff and we have premium installations — this is not a plastic hit-and-run kiosk that comes in and goes out the next day.
“We believe in our ability to communicate our brand in terms of the quality of design and the usability of the product. People can actually try it out, and if they are not comfortable with their product they can always come back and ask questions.”