In 2007, a couple months after the debut of the first iPhone, my team was assigned to explore ways to make the Sprint retail experience more relevant to their customers. Over time, large telecommunications companies had found themselves competing over speed and bandwidth. Unfortunately, there’s always someone else working on a faster, more efficient system, so any significant differentiation has to come from another source.
Phone calls, text messages, music and video programming carry deep personal meaning, and the emotional connection seemed a more important message than incremental differences in speed. So we turned our focus to the personal aspect of telecommunications.
Cell phone stores are transactional places. One goes there to select a phone, choose a plan, buy an accessory, or pay a bill. And Sprint stores reflected exactly that. Promotional messages covered every surface and products were presented without much attention towards helping people make a choice.
But the flagship stores of device manufacturers revealed environments where one could hold and use the products, and ask detailed questions in a relaxed manner.
While the employees in phone shops often approach customers and stand side-by-side as they go through the products, the transaction usually finds the employee and customers on opposite sides of a computer screen. So the first thing to address was the physical relationship between store employees and customers. We proposed redesigning the retail space so employees and customers were always in collaborative, rather than transactional, proximity. Standing by a table instead of across a counter.
At the time, Sprint had exclusive relationships with NASCAR and the NFL to stream events. So we proposed they also stream the events in the stores. That way, if someone had to wait to speak with an employee, they were at least entertained.
Concurrently, Sprint was also building relationships with musicians and record companies. So we imagined what the ideal Sprint flagship store would look like.
What if customers could freely listen to music available on the Sprint network? What if they could catch NASCAR or NFL events in a Sprint environment? What if people could meet up at the Sprint store for a coffee? What if you could go hear a band at Sprint?
If our phones have such a relationship to our emotional lives, then a Sprint Experience store could be the place where emotional connections are made.
Potentially, stores could go from this…
Agency: BIG / Ogilvy
Chief Creative Officer: Brian Collins
Creative direction, design: Mark Kingsley
Design: Kapono Chung, Noah Venezia
Architectural renderings: Noah Venezia
Research: Paige Nobles, Emily Corkill
Model: Charles Watlington