May brings Meta’s first physical store

Discussion
Photo: Meta
Apr 26, 2022

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, will be opening its first physical store in May.

The tech giant will open the Meta Store on May 9 in Burlingame, CA, according to a release on the company website. The store will focus on allowing customers to test out Meta-developed hardware such as Ray-Ban Stories (Ray-Ban’s smart glasses created in conjunction with Meta), the standalone video calling hardware Portal and the immersive VR headset Oculus Quest 2.

In its pre-Meta incarnation, Facebook attempted to run Oculus demonstrations in Best Buy locations with limited success, despite dedicating prime store real estate to devices and demos, according to a Washington Post article on the new store. The immersive nature of the experience may have made it an off-putting product for people to try in stores full of strangers. The demos ended with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the products planned for the Meta Store, including the Oculus Quest 2, remain available in major electronics retailers like Best Buy and general retailers like Walmart, according to Tom’s Guide. Were the Meta Store to scale beyond a single store, it could put Meta in more direct competition with its own retail partners.

May brings Meta’s first physical store
Photo: Meta

Whether Meta will be any better at successfully managing in-store demos any better than Best Buy did a few years ago remains an open question. Another one of the biggest global tech companies recently stumbled in its attempts at providing a satisfying physical retail experience.

Amazon.com in March closed down all 68 of its Amazon Books, Amazon 4-Star and physical pop-up stores nationwide. The company said it planned to focus on its physical presences in the grocery and convenience world and its Just Walk Out technology. Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, told Reuters that the move resulted from Amazon discovering that “retail is hard.”

At the same time, other mostly virtual tech giants have been dipping a toe into physical retail in recent years.

For instance, Google recently announced plans to open a physical Google Store in Brooklyn, joining its first standalone location in Chelsea, according to The Real Deal.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What will it take for the Meta Store to be successful? How do you expect Best Buy and other retailers that sell Meta products to react if the concept is scaled?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Seeing is believing, especially when it comes to the Metaverse. No better way to get people to try VR than putting a headset on. "
"Why would Meta need a physical store? A physical store for a virtual reality company? Am I supposed to ignore the man behind the curtain?"
"As a showroom for wearable gear, Meta Store makes product discovery more accessible and buzzworthy."

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16 Comments on "May brings Meta’s first physical store"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

This is a very small step for Meta in the retail business. And while this first store is nothing more than a three dimensional billboard, the real value is in the learning. Opening a bunch of Meta stores seems like a bad idea. Meta has no experience in retail and their current offerings don’t lend themselves to a full store experience. I think Meta would be better served by trying to find effective relationships with existing retailers – like Best Buy – to showcase their nascent but growing Meta product offering.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

I agree with Mark and that will be my comment on this topic for today…

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

Seeing is believing, especially when it comes to the Metaverse. No better way to get people to try VR than putting a headset on. That’s how I sold a bunch of headsets to friends and family, as there is nothing as compelling as the experience itself, and with the price point of entry it makes it that much more important to try before you buy. Whether a retail store is a bad idea or not, you still have to get people to try the tech to convert them.

Brian Delp
BrainTrust
5 months 9 days ago

Physical retail isn’t for the weak — but it seems it’s for the naive. Ego is the only thing I can use to explain how a digital company can think it can do physical retail better than someone like Best Buy who has been in the game since 1966, but OK. Unless there is a real experiential retail component to this, I doubt there will be a significant draw. Perhaps a better partnership would have been someone like a Game Stop that speaks to the gaming community.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Why would Meta need a physical store? A physical store for a virtual reality company? Am I supposed to ignore the man behind the curtain?

Maybe augmented reality (AR) will have a future in a shared physical space. Until VR goggles stop making people look like Minions, though, true VR will have no place in retail stores. Karaoke bars, maybe.

Google Glass failed in Consumer Land partly because they creeped people out. They now have a second life in warehouses and DCs. Maybe that’s where VR’s real next play in retail will be. Instead of pick-to-light, you’ll just see paths and arrows pointing at what’s next to add to the order.

One more thing: I see only one pair of VR goggles in the store. Is this a clever way to make sure the customer line snakes out the door and all the way to the nearest Starbucks? This is an old Outback Steakhouse trick. They make the restaurants too small so there’s always a line outside. Brilliant!

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Part of the metaverse movement is to have a physical showroom/store to blend the digital and physical experiences. It is an outstanding strategy to start with a single showroom location. There Meta can take chances, be as experimental as possible, and drive innovative and authentic experiences without the significant investments in hundreds of locations.

Another strategy the Meta team may want to explore is the pop-up retail model. The pop-up retail model will enable Meta to achieve a significant physical store footprint without the large investment in real estate and infrastructure.

Innovation requires a crawl/walk/run/test and learn strategy. Piloting this multi-sensory showroom in the Meta campus is appropriate. Scale and store expansions will come once the testing period is successful. The metaverse’s newness, unknowns, and unlimited potential are driving mass interest and intrigue. It will be interesting to see if Meta has any retail ambitions beyond this first store.

David Spear
BrainTrust

It’s not hard to believe that a digitally born company wants to plant some roots into the ground with a physical store, but I don’t think this will end well for Meta. They have zero retail experience, and their product line is extremely limited. Will the store be cool? Yes, absolutely, but I doubt it will spur significant sales. Best Buy has nothing to worry about because I can’t see more than a few Meta stores being launched.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Gotta love the irony of the importance of physical stores in getting people embracing and immersed in the Metaverse. Can’t wait to see what kind of conversion rate the shop experiences after people have an opportunity to test drive a visit to the Metaverse.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

How ironic that a brand pushing the metaverse so heavily needs physical stores to sell that vision to consumers. Aside from that, the mockups – if they are mockups – look pretty underwhelming. Meta is supposed to be creating a brave new world and, while pleasant, this looks stale and old. All that said, I think there will be some great learnings from interacting directly with customers. I doubt this will have the traction of Apple as Meta’s ecosystem of products isn’t anywhere near as compelling – for now, at least. My view is that they will open a handful of flagships and then create a shop-in-shop concept with Best Buy to extend coverage.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

While it is critical to have a physical store presence to sell products that are experiential, having dedicated Meta Stores may not be the best strategy. As others mentioned, the Meta product portfolio is very limited and it will be difficult to generate enough revenues to make the stores profitable. Finding good brands that offer a Meta store-within-a-store seems more appropriate. However the staff in these areas should be Meta employees, not the store associates that sell in other departments.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

The Meta Store’s success hinges on welcoming, immersive experiences to fuel enthusiasm for the metaverse beyond early adopters.

As a showroom for wearable gear, Meta Store makes product discovery more accessible and buzzworthy. Entertaining consumers and engaging their senses could convince consumers to bring the hardware home. Friendly, knowledgeable associates add a human touch to the metaverse by deepening relationships to earn consumer trust.

Other retailers would need dedicated — ideally private — in-store areas where users can test Meta products without bonking into other shoppers.

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust

Physical retail is a great way to test Meta’s product assortment and build out new product offerings as they connect and learn what the customer wants in real-time.

A great showroom experience comes down to product that delights and knowledgeable and engaging brand ambassadors. As long as Meta has this secret sauce, this could be a win for the brand, even if the hype doesn’t last. They are meeting the customer where they want to shop – in a physical store.

As for other retailers selling Meta products – the Meta store will pique the interest of curious customers who can’t get to the Meta store.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

How are we defining success? As a learning lab it could work. As a retail concept not so much. That said, there is a certain sense of the tragically ironic in Meta’s big announcement of this bold jump into the analog world. Looks like sci-fi writer William Gibson was right. The future has already happened. It’s called the past.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

How are we defining success? Is the store a place to show off product? Let people play and experience? Or is it a place to sell product? If the measure is on the latter, Meta is foolish. If the measure is on the former and people buy the products later online or at Meta partners, then you have success.

The Samsung Experience sells Samsung products, but that is clearly not the objective of the location. It is to play. And people line up for just that.

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

Determining success in this case is like the Amazon approach to their physical presence, it is experiment, change as needed, continue to experiment until desired outcome is achieved. Meta needs to learn firsthand what the consumer experience is on their hardware. Relying on Best Buy didn’t cut it. Whether Meta’s goal is to open a lot of stores or not is irrelevant. It needs that first hand store experience to gather customer feedback in person on a consistent basis.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

To imply Meta could fail seems like a short-sighted viewpoint to me. Meta’s key pillar is innovation, and this physical store is one such experiment. I’m sure it’s attempting to draw some sort of conclusion from the experiences of people who use their products in stores. These findings and lessons will be used to improve their product offerings in the future. That is how they would define the initiative’s success.

Other retailers may be less enthusiastic about this approach. Because I believe that if a company invests in innovation, they will prioritize their own ideas over other brands. However, given the retail industry’s unpredictability, we cannot rule out any other scenario.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Seeing is believing, especially when it comes to the Metaverse. No better way to get people to try VR than putting a headset on. "
"Why would Meta need a physical store? A physical store for a virtual reality company? Am I supposed to ignore the man behind the curtain?"
"As a showroom for wearable gear, Meta Store makes product discovery more accessible and buzzworthy."

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