Will gadget shopping ever be the same again after the pandemic?
In the age of social distancing, people might not want to handle fingerprint-smudged smartphones on display
Trying to find a good laptop to buy now that everyone in the family is staying home? Or wondering how Apple’s updated keyboard feels? All of sudden, it’s no longer an option to go on a shopping trip to see and touch things for yourself. And even in places where shops remain open, it’s easy to see why some people might be reluctant to handle display items.
In China, where the contagion first exploded, shoppers are being introduced to new ways of shopping that attempt to replicate parts of the in-store experience.
(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)
Some of these are wise first steps, said Chris Schreiner, director at research firm Strategy Analytics, but there’s room to translate more of the feel-it-yourself experience in homes.
“Setting up virtual showrooms where consumers can get a more interactive experience with a device – see how exactly differentiating features and functions work, and when applicable, interact with them – would help with making that emotional connection,” he said.
Apple already uses augmented reality to let customers see how the iPhone 11 Pro would look in their surroundings. You can spin the virtual phone around, but that’s about it for now. You can’t actually press buttons on the phone or play with the screen yet.
Video chat or live streaming might work better in China, where purchase decisions are largely driven by on-paper specs and features, Schreiner told us. Western consumers, on the other hand, like to feel the shape and weight of a device in the hand.
“It is as much an emotional experience as it is practical,” he said.
Brands might be more willing to absorb the cost of sending in a top-end device for potential customers to test-drive at home, according to Kevin Nolan, vice-president of user experience at Strategy Analytics.
“But they would need to reassure people that [the phones] which were returned were deep cleaned -- that will be important even after this crisis is over,” he said.
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