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Verizon Unveils Big Box 'Superstores' In Bid to Reinvent Wireless Category

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Is Verizon trying to take a page out of Apple's playbook? The telecom company is launching multi-thousand square-foot destination superstores, where you can hang out, test devices, and maybe even go on a run.

The new stores were announced in a webcast and news conference by Verizon chief operating officer Marni Walden, from the first redesigned Verizon superstore in Bloomington, Minn.'s Mall of America. Chicago is the next U.S. city slated to get one of these stores, and more will be rolling out across the country in "high-traffic" locations.

The impetus for creating these superstores was the finding that while the device ecosystem had matured, customers still weren't doing as much as they could with their phones and tablets. "As much as people know about technology, there's a huge opportunity to help educate customers," Brian Angiolet, VP-marketing for Verizon, told AdAge, adding that he thinks Verizon is straying "outside the category" toward what other retailers, like clothing stores and sports stores are doing.

The 9,715-square-foot destination store, which was created in collaboration with digital agency AKQA, features multiple lifestyle zones where customers can test gadgets and talk to Verizon experts. For example, the "Get Fit" zone might be someplace a runner or athlete goes. There, fitness enthusiasts can experience hands-on technology to help them monitor their activity goals. Customers can step up on a treadmill wearing activity tracker bracelet FitBitZip and check out how many calories they're burning, for example. A huge screen in front of the treadmill will feature different "terrains" you can run on, like a beach, or a rocky road.

Another zone Ms. Walden demonstrated was the "Amplify It" zone, which is all about music. Customers can listen to music together, and play with a "Wall of Sound" designed to show off different speakers, while a DJ booth will let you use an app to create your own sound.

The zones will rotate and change seasonally, and Verizon will partner with different vendors and companies for new zones. Other zones include an "Anywhere Business" zone, for mobile businesses and entrepreneurs; a "Have Fun" zone for gamers; "Customize It," where you can personalize your smartphone; and a "Home and On the Go" zone for home monitoring and security.

Ms. Walden also said that Verizon is in the process of converting its 1,700 nationwide locations into what the company is dubbing "smart stores" -- essentially, smaller, more compact versions of the destination stores like the one in Minnesota.

Earlier this year, AT&T also redesigned its stores, going for an Apple-esque feel by getting rid of counters and cash registers, and replacing printed placards with digital screens.

Ms. Walden added that along with redesigning the company's stores, Verizon will also bridge online shopping and in-person shopping better. Stores will integrate online shopping within the brick-and-mortar locations by introducing same day delivery and pick up in store when you order online. Integrated shopping carts let you start shopping on the Web, and then pick up right where you left off if you happen to wander into a store location.

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