AT&T’s High-Tech, High-Touch Flagship

AT&T’s first-ever flagship is designed to immerse customers in everything AT&T. The 10,000-sq.-ft. emporium, located at 600 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, also offers shoppers a peek into the future, with the first-ever retail demonstrations of the company’s new digital home security system and an example of how wireless technology can help driving via an on-site “connected” car.

“The store is about bringing AT&T technology and the brand to life for our customers,” said Christina Cheng, general manager, flagship store,  AT&T. “And we do that by inviting them to try out the various technologies on display and by highlighting how our technology can improve their lives.”

To that end, the store takes a hands-on, experiential approach to retailing that allows customers to check out the latest smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, while also helping them to understand and experience the role of evolving technology in their daily lives — and, hopefully, to take home the message that AT&T is ahead of the pack. Accordingly, the space is outfitted with the latest in digital wizardry, from Microsoft Surface tables to 100 dazzling video displays. But AT&T hasn’t lost sight of the importance of the human touch. There are plenty of employees on hand to assist.

“It’s very important to make customers feel at ease,” Cheng said, “and the level of comfort is determined by the employees they interact with. Our customers are welcomed by very friendly employees who put them at ease and help them navigate the space.”

One of the first things customers see on entering is an 18-ft.-high wall of video screens that shows interactive content, customer announcements and product information. (The atrium includes a touchscreen table loaded with AT&T’s favorite apps available for AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, which are downloadable on the spot.)

Highlights of the store include the Explorer Lounge, where shoppers can play with and learn about various apps on interactive Surface tables that display various apps categories. Shoppers can tap them to explore different apps.

“Looking at apps can be intimidating because there are so many to choose from,” Cheng explained. “We try to make it easy for people to find out which ones are fun and most useful for them. You can sync your phone right to the table and have the apps downloaded on the spot to your phone. And anyone can have the experience — not just AT&T customers.”

Customers who want more personal attention can get it at the Apps Bar, where associates (called “app-tenders”) serve up one-on-one and group demos, which are also displayed on multiple video monitors on an adjacent wall.

The store’s open layout includes a series of lifestyle boutiques, which display products, apps and accessories organized according to customer needs. One of the boutiques, “Chicagoland,” features Chicago-themed apps and products. The “Get Fit” boutique” has health and fitness apps, as well as health-related merchandise, such as a clip that a person can wear to monitor daily activity.

“We can also show you how everything can be synced together and how it all works in real life,” Cheng said.

Further back in the store, a space called The Gallery showcases artwork from artists with Chicago ties, and also displays limited edition, custom-designed phone cases.

Another part of the store, the Experience Platform, features dedicated spaces to AT&T products for home security, entertainment, music and automobiles. The Street Smart space features an all-electric 2012 Nissan Leaf car and shows the future of automotive connectivity, safety and efficiency.

 “Customers can get in the car and experience how all the products work,” Cheng said.

It’s important to point out that the technology at the new AT&T isn’t just for the customers. For the first time in its retail stores, the company is using biometric technology, with its employees using their fingerprints to open cash draws.

 “It’s a lot easier in that you don’t have to worry about who you give keys to,” Cheng added.

Also, there is no waiting in line to check out at a counter. Instead, the store features mobile POS.

Design: The store has a streamlined, modern look, with a mostly white palette that puts the spotlight on the experience. The use of natural wood (primarily reclaimed teak wood) throughout warms up the space and goes a long way to enhancing the environment. Comfortable couches and chairs provide relaxed seating.

“Technology can sometimes be a little cold,” Cheng said. “But the wood really helps warm up the store.”

The teak wood is only one element of the eco-friendly orientation of the store, which was designed and built with sustainable materials and practices. The use of energy-efficient lighting, temperature controls and Energy Star appliances contributes to reduced energy and water consumption.