Dell targets first-time buyers

Dell has opened its first multimedia kiosk in Australia, paving the way for a series of similar stores to spring up across the country if the move proves successful.

Australia follows in the footsteps of similar initiatives launched in Japan, the US and Singapore. Today, there are 70 stores in the US and 20 in the Asia-Pacific region.

The first direct store in Australia, at Sydney’s Chatswood Westfield Plaza, would be used to showcase its Inspiron notebooks and Dimension desktop computers as well as offering a range of peripherals and accessories including flat-screen monitors, printers and software. Service and warranty options would also be available.

Three other Sydney locations are under consideration, according to corporate communications manager for Dell Australia, Nicole Gemmell. “We’re running a phased approach, piloting the program within the Sydney metropolitan area,” she said.

While no inventory is to be held on-site, Gemmell said three or four sales staff would answer queries and help users order customised, built-to-order systems direct from the kiosk or online through the traditional direct sales channel. After-sales support would still operate via the centralised Dell support helpdesk.

The strategy would target a new market, the first-time PC buyer wanting face-to-face contact and a hands-on experience, Gemmell said. “The real objective is testing a format where customers can see, touch and feel,” she said. “There’s a small segment of the market that want to do that, and it’s a new market for Dell.”

The idea was to offer customers a new way to enhance the buying experience, managing director for Dell A/NZ, David Miller, said.

“This program extends that approach to consumers who have told us that they would also value opportunities to see, touch and actually play with our products as they purchase,” Miller said.

While Australian consumers wanted the touch and feel experience, Gartner PC analyst, Andy Woo, said they also wanted the trusted IT-advisory relationship of a reseller.

“If consumers are inexperienced, they tend to seek out resellers for added service, maintenance and support [along with quick turnaround times],” Woo said.

The importance of the move would depend on whether the strategy rolled out across the country, Woo said.

“At that point, will Dell be able to compete in this space with the traditional reseller along with the major retailers like Harvey Norman?” he asked. Looking overseas for a possible benchmark, Woo said the concept in Singapore didn’t take off because of lack of consumer awareness.

“It started out very well and then fizzled,” he said.

Here in Australia, Woo said the big challenge would be converting mind share to market share.

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