Verizon, AT&T launch their own stores within Best Buy outlets

The carriers will use their sections at Best Buy to better promote their smartphones, tablets and various services.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Best Buy is hosting ministores from Verizon and AT&T as both carriers aim to promote their products. Greg Sandoval/CNET

Verizon and AT&T are both setting up shop at Best Buy stores to try to make a bigger impression among customers.

Special expanded sections known as Verizon "Experience Stores" are wending their way into Best Buy outlets where store employees familiar with Verizon's offerings will demo and promote the carrier's products and services. Consumers will be able to try out Verizon devices and discuss customized plans and options with store reps. The rollout has already begun and is expected to reach 100 Best Buy outlets by the end of September with 250 outlets in total by the end of 2015, Verizon said on Tuesday.

The expanded presence will be in addition to Verizon's usual area in the mobile phone section at Best Buy stores.

The goal behind the Experience Stores is to shine a greater spotlight on Verizon for existing customers and of course potential new subscribers. Employees at the Experience Stores will also help answer questions from customers confused by the array of products and plans offered by Verizon. In early August, the carrier announced that it was killing off subsidized contract plans in favor of ones that require new customers to pay the full retail price for a phone in exchange for the ability to upgrade at any time. As part of the new strategy, Verizon has also tweaked its data plan buckets into small, medium, large, extra-large and extra-extra-large -- a move likely to trigger questions and concerns among Verizon customers.

"The shops allow us to offer even better service to our customers, whether they need help with their data plan or understanding how their phone or tablet can better control their increasingly connected life," Josh Will, senior category officer of mobile and connected home at Best Buy, said in a press release. "The mobile device is becoming the remote control to everything else in our lives, but it can be confusing. We can help shoppers make sense of it all."

AT&T is also muscling into the store

But watch out Verizon, AT&T is also setting up special shops within Best Buy outlets.

Rolling out already, AT&T is offering its own in-store experience to highlight a range of tech gadgets, including smartphones, tablets, wearables and connected car plug-ins. The carrier also plans to set up high definition TVs to promote its DirecTV service. And trying to take advantage of the buzz around smart homes and appliances, AT&T will demo its automated Digital Life home security system.

The AT&T stores will be staffed by employees trained on the company's products and services. And like Verizon, AT&T is shooting to set up its new stores at 250 Best Buy locations by the end of 2015.

"Rolling out now, new AT&T shops with a full range of products -- including IoT ( Internet of Things), can be found inside select Best Buy stores throughout the country," an AT&T spokesperson said in a press release. "These AT&T shops are aimed at giving its customers a more personalized connected life experience. From home security and automation, to wearables and connected cars, the new shopping area shows shoppers how it all works together."

Not a new concept

Other tech players have carved off Best Buy real estate at a way to promote their products. In 2013, Samsung set up minshops within Best Buy outlets to tout its phones, tablets and other gear. And in 2014, Sony adopted the same strategy to open its own stores-within-a-store at Best Buy.

A prominent presence in a retail chain such as Best Buy offers several advantages to tech vendors.

Such ministores can help companies better promote their products beyond the small and crowded store shelves. Dedicated employees can demo products and deal one-on-one with shoppers who are seeking to buy or existing customers who have questions. Running a ministore within a larger retailer such as Best Buy also avoids the risks and expenses of running your own dedicated retail outlet.

Yes, Apple found the secret to success with its dedicated Apple Stores. But that's not a strategy many tech companies would be or have been able to pull off. In 2002, PC maker Gateway opened its own retail stores, only to end up closing them before it was eventually acquired by Acer in 2007.