Verizon makes retail push with enhanced 'destination store'

The carrier shows off its first destination store, based in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., which is designed to provide further education on wireless products.

Welcome to the revamped Verizon Wireless 'destination' store. Verizon

Verizon Wireless is hoping to shake up the retail experience.

Verizon Chief Operating Officer Marni Walden on Tuesday unveiled its first "destination" store in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. The enhanced store is designed to provide education, support, and hands-on demonstrations of wireless products and services. She also said the company would be converting its chain of 1,700 retail locations into "smart stores" that act as a smaller version of its destination stores.

The destination store opens on Wednesday at 6 pm ET.

The destination store represents an overhaul of the usual carrier retail experience that goes beyond the smartphone. The store includes six "zones" focusing on different areas such as fitness and music. It will also include workshops, and things like same-day delivery, in-store pickup, and an integrated shopping cart that works with online orders. Most stores offer in-store pick-up of orders and five markets -- Philadelphia, New York, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco -- offer same-day delivery.

"They are designed to educate, engage, and give hands-on time to customers," Walden said during the Webcast presentation.

Retail is a critical tool for Verizon -- and every carrier -- as a majority of sales still take place at carrier stores. Verizon is taking a page out of Apple's playbook and turning its retail locations into more iconic locations that provide more than the 30-second pitch on the latest smartphone or tablet. By offering more services and advice, the company is hoping to sell more connected products and foster customer loyalty.

It's not the only one. AT&T in August touted a large revamp of its retail stores with a new design, and had previously launched a splashy flagship store in Chicago. A few years ago, T-Mobile had also revamped its stores to bring a fresher experience and more hands-on help.

"We are doing much more by creating an experience for our customers to enhance their lives and learn about new ways mobile devices can add value to their everyday activities," said Verizon representative Tom Pica.

Verizon is working on a few more destination stores, Walden said, although she didn't specify the timing or number of locations. She later added a second store would open in Chicago next year, followed by other markets including Houston.

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