Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
By KEIRA LYONS
Last week, I reported on my experience with the Nook Tablet sales team at a local Barnes & Noble store; as you could probably tell from my post, it was disappointing, to say the least. Over this past week, I had the opportunity to visit both Best Buy and Staples to assess how well their sales teams were marketing the Amazon Kindle Fire.
I went to the Best Buy in Danvers on Saturday, November 26. There is a large tablet display not far from the front of the store, and I make my way over to it. I’m surprised to find the selection of tablets Best Buy offers: the Apple iPad, Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, Amazon Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy, Motorola Xoom, Toshiba Thrive, and many more. The tablets are arranged around two long board-room style tables, and half a dozen other shoppers are checking them out.
Before I even get near Kindle Fire, I’m asked by a passing sales associate if I need help finding anything. He points me in the direction of Kindle Fire, and once there, another sales associate approaches me to see if I have any questions. She is friendly and informed, and, to my delight, doesn’t get flustered by questions for which she doesn’t have an answer. She shows me how to do things, and offers her personal experiences with the device. The one thing I’m disappointed by had nothing to do with her sales expertise, but the device itself: the demo model available at the store doesn’t allow customers to try out the Amazon Silk browser. As the Silk browser is something Amazon emphasizes in its marketing plan, I feel that’s a terrible oversight.
When I ask what tablet she would buy for her own use, she answers honestly, “the iPad. Though, since it’s way out of my price range, I would probably buy Kindle Fire; my mom has a regular Kindle reader, and I’ve always enjoyed using it.” I spend at least 15 minutes chit-chatting with her about Kindle Fire, and not once do I get the vibe that I’m annoying her. She even turns down the request of a customer needing to purchase something to continue talking to me.
On Monday, November 28, I visited Staples near Government Center in Boston. The display for Kindle Fire is directly in front of me as I walk in the door. Like Best Buy, Staples also sells a huge variety of tablets—but the Kindle Fire is clearly given priority with regard to product placement. In ninja-like fashion, as soon as I pick up the device a sales associate comes from around a corner to help me. He stays for a few minutes, tries to answer my questions (tries being the operative word), and then leaves me to my perusing. Another associate quickly replaces him, and I have better luck with him than the first.
Sales associate number two knows a little bit more about the functionality of Kindle Fire, and seems generally interested in the device and my questions about it. One thing that stands out about Staples is their technical support and protection plan for Kindle Fire. (Neither Barnes & Noble or Best Buy have told me about their plans, though, after checking their websites, I can see that they do exist.) A two-year plan costs only $39.99, as compared to the competition’s $50 plans, and I deal directly with Staples—not Amazon, and not a third-party insurance company. For me, this feature is very attractive.
So who wins?
After experiencing the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet in person and speaking with their sales teams, I have to say the Kindle Fire wins hands down. This is definitely an unanticipated result. Barnes & Noble is supposed to have an advantage over its online competitor, but apparently, their sales expertise in books has yet to transfer to technology. Perhaps Amazon’s lack of physical stores is the real advantage; Amazon can subcontract out their in-store presence to companies that actually know—and care about—selling tablets.