If the Apple Store and IKEA had a baby, it might look something like Verizon’s new retail space in Seattle.
The nation’s largest wireless carrier today debuted its first “Smart Store Plus” in the U.S. at University Village, just a few miles north of downtown Seattle. The 4,818 square-foot store features a host of devices that customers can try out — smartphones, tablets, wearables, headphones, etc. — and has several interactive “Lifestyle Zones” that demonstrate how technology like connected homes and fitness trackers operate.
“We have ‘Smart Stores‘ already, but this takes to it to the next level from an experience aspect,” explained store manager Bobbie Walker.
The idea, Walker said, is to have a certain “cool factor” and differentiate from the traditional Verizon store that often lacks energy with no way to keep customers engaged while they wait for help.
I spent some time in the new Smart Store Plus today, and it’s certainly a far cry from your typical wireless carrier retail location, in addition to Sony’s outpost that occupied this exact space before closing down in February.
For example, you can hop on an exercise bike and strap on a wearable device to see what it’s like to track a workout. A connected TV loads Google Maps and you can virtually pedal anywhere — there are also pre-determined rides at places like Paris or the Golden Gate Bridge.
A few feet away from the bright red bike were the connected home demos, which allow you to see how mobile apps like Nest and WeMo remotely control thermostats, light switches, fans, door locks, and more with a smartphone.
“We set the tone visually for what you’re going to see at home,” Walker said.
The other impressive aspect was the smartphone and tablet area, which included giant touchscreens that allow customers to see detailed specs on products and easily compare with other devices. This also showed which accessories — a Samsung smartwatch or Nest thermostat, for example — were compatible with each device, in the case that a customer saw something they liked at a demo station. Verizon only has two other “Destination Stores” that have these touchscreens.
“People love touch,” Walker said. “It’s cool, it’s edgy.”
Finally, Walker said the “heartbeat of the store” is what Verizon calls its “University,” where customers can take workshops on a variety of tech-related subjects. Both Apple and Microsoft do something similar at their retail locations.
“There are about a million people in Seattle and if they want hands-on product knowledge, they really can’t go anywhere,” Walker said.
Verizon, which has been reluctant to cut prices as its competitors do so, is hosting a grand opening celebration on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. with Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse on hand to sign autographs. The store is located just across from the QFC on the southeast end of U-Village. Check out more photos below: