Did Nokia's Stores Fail Because They Weren't Apple-y Enough?

nokia stores

Nokia's woes worsened recently when it announced it was shutting its flagship physical store on London's Regent Street. Today, reports surfaced about the closing of it's New York and Chicago stores, too. Weren't they Apple-y enough?

Back in 2006 when Nokia opened its own bricks-and-mortar stores in the U.S., all seemed rosy. At the time Nokia spokesman Keith Nowak noted that the idea was to have a Nokia-ized experience: "The people who work there will be Nokia people, with knowledge that will be deep. And the luxury of having some of these new channels is it gives us the opportunity to offer products which are a little lower volume and a little targeted." Those words were an echo of the corporate-speak things Nokia UK MD Simon Ainslie said in 2008 at the London store opening: "In championing our brand, Nokia Regent Street will be dynamic, original and beautifully designed."

Read into those words and you can almost here the Nokia higher-ups' discussion in the boardroom: "Well, Apple did it like this. We can too." And indeed, the actual stores could be described as having a bit of the Apple design about them—just with more glitz. And with more colored mood lighting. And with phones on stands like little displays in jewelry shops. And with Nokia's rare and odd high-end phone efforts on pedestals, costing a fortune but still running the same bland Symbian OS and with the same guts as the $50 phone next door. In fact, Nokia seems to have take the classy and uber-simplistic presentation ideals of an Apple Store (where playing with products in an uncluttered and friendly environment is part of the Apple magic that helps sell its gear) and mixed in some good ol' 1970s dodgy Eurodisco glam.

nokia store

Which, if you think about it, is a very odd way to try to sell cell phones—not particularly exciting devices, on the whole. And, remember, these are cell phones from a maker that makes most of its money selling ultra-cheap, mass-market devices. Say "Nokia" and people won't think of the high-end Vertu phones Nokia also pedals. Say "Vertu" and most people will go "expensive super-swanky nonsense." So exactly who did Nokia think it would be selling phones to in these shops?

[Via Reuters]

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  • Luis Cabral

    I do agree with that. But i think that what makes the Nespresso experience so exciting is that they were able to back it up with really exciting merchandising. When you leave the store you really do feel like you're part of an exclusive club, and that you really are special. Good knows i felt like that when i bought mine, even though i had just spent 600$ on a coffee machine and some lousy capsules. It's probably a bit of cognitive dissonance there too.
    There's also the issue of quantity.There are only a handful of Nespresso machine models. You can over them and their pro and cons in less then 10 minutes.It's a fast paced experience that makes you wanna jump to the cash machine. They shove products down your throat, but they do it brilliantly.
    Nokia on the other hand has TONS of cell phones, with all specifications and differences. It takes time to decide what Nokia you want. I don't think it's a matter of Nokia having uninteresting products(though their products do indeed lack "interesting feautures" when compared to the iphone and such). I think it's the terrible ammount of different phones they have, and thinking that shoving some black lights and couches on a store will make people wanna buy them.
    As for the phones themselves, never had a problem with them. They're the simplest, easiest, and for me, most realiable phones out there

  • Kit Eaton

    @Luis... more subtle than that I think: Nespresso machines are slightly exciting: They're attractively designed, and they deliver a pretty good quality experience. I would struggle to describe a nokia phone as attractive or able to deliver the kind of satisfaction you can get from a good cuppa joe.
    @Oobio. True, but Nokia's successis hardly one of rampantly admirable innovation in recent years, is it? The experience of using their devices is pretty similar to how it was five years ago, and their high-end smartphone attempts just pale in comparison to other leading smartphones.

  • Oobio HelsinkiTimes

    "Products speak louder than advertisements and word of mouth still carries more weight than anything else."

    If only that were true, the Motorola Droid would not need 100 million in marketing funding would it?

    @Thomas George you are full of it.

    Nokia devices are used by more people than any other consumer electronic device on the planet for years and years, how do you think that happened if "all of them are massively flawed in one way or another"?

    People often seem to forget that Nokia is dominating the mobile phone market all over the globe for over a decade now, despite competing head-to-head for years with companies like RIM, Microsoft, Apple, Google and also the asian companies in this game.

    I guess it has left a lot of people envious at this success.

    As a technology company whose products are used by over 1 billion people every day, I think it does not get the credit it deserves having more than at least twice the marketshare of any other competitor it is facing.

  • Thomas George

    Gregg- I'm in Australia. I've owned 4 Nokia phones, each one with problems. My last one was free and lasted a month before the screen died. I switched to Ericsson and haven't looked back. Sadly, everyone I know has complained about their Nokia. They make a shoddy product and the consumer perception knows this. Products speak louder than advertisements and word of mouth still carries more weight than anything else.

    Thomas George

  • Luis Cabral

    I dont know if the product not being interesting is the main issue for the failure of the stores. Expresso machines aren't that interesting at all and Nespresso stores are pretty successful.

  • Gregg Lebovitz

    I'm guessing that Thomas lives in the U.S. and therefore understand how he could have his perspective, but I don't think Nokia is in risk of becoming insolvent in the near future. They seem to own the two fastest growing markets in the world, India and China.

    The big question is whether or not Nokia will be able to converge their Qt / Symbian / Maemo strategy to produce killer phones in the near future. They don't have to get it right immediately. They just have to get it right by the time the mass market starts buying high end phones.

    I do think it was a faulty strategy to open high end stores without the products to back them up. But that too is a flash in the pan given Nokia's financial strength and volume. They can afford to make these kinds of mistakes while they sort out their strategy for the smart phone market. I wouldn't count them out because Apple is beating them at Apple's game. The question is whether or not Apple can beat them at Nokia's game.

  • Thomas George

    Yes it seems Nokia have missed the mark consistently with their massive range of products. They have so many phones out on the market and all of them are massively flawed in one way or another.

    When they linked with Sega to release the N-Gage they almost got it right. However they seem to be too focused on revenue generation instead of developing a decent phone that doesn't break as soon as you sneeze while holding it.

    With the stores, they've tried to piggy back on Apples success instead of addressing the common consumer perception of their products being shoddy.

    You're completely right with questioning their thinking, why not put all that money into developing a phone that consumers don't regret buying 10 minutes after leaving a Nokia store.

    I think Nokia are in the final throes of viability because their brand name is beyond repair. I figure sometime soon, they'll declare insolvency. Probably blaming the world economic crisis for their declining sales in the process.