Rogers goes hands on with its future

The telco's new flagship store attempts to break down adoption barriers and help consumers understand tech like 5G and IoT.

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This story appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of strategy.

Emerging technology is going to be extremely important for the future of Canada’s telcos. They have invested billions into 5G technology, be it in upgrading infrastructure or researching new innovations the pending wireless upgrade could facilitate. Many of those innovations will be in IoT, which will run on their WiFi and wireless internet; while IPTV platforms will continue to air content from their TV channels.

That makes it equally important for telcos to help customers see the opportunities that exist in tech – and for companies like Rogers to understand barriers to adoption. The new Rogers 302 flagship store at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square aims to facilitate that.

“It’s bringing the idea of ‘make more possible’ to life by actually showcasing to our customer what this technology means to their lives,” says Bruce Herscovici, VP of branded retail at Rogers, referring to the company’s brand platform. “With connected living, it is becoming increasingly difficult to help people understand the applications and why it should matter to them. This is showing people what happens instead of trying to talk about it.”

Upon entering, shoppers see the store’s exhibition space, where Google is currently showing how its connected home tech works in different household vignettes, as well as advanced features of its Pixel phones. A value-add for OEMs, Herscovici says the space will be reconfigured every six to eight weeks to feature other brands, like Samsung and Apple.

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An “immersive zone” is meant to show the different experiences 5G can facilitate, such as a holographic concert with Tyler Shaw created with Live Nation. That area will also be updated, albeit on a less regular basis, with other 5G-focused experiences from other partners and owned properties, like the NHL or The Shopping Channel. Right now, it is more of a simulation, but more 5G-powered tech will be in the store once the upgrade rolls out in 2021.

The second floor is business-focused, a first among Rogers’ 2,500 retail locations. Part of it is dedicated to clients – a video wall navigated by motion control allows them to learn about the impacts of 5G on their industries – but it also has company boardrooms and will be the site of executive briefings going forward.

The store’s traditional retail elements have also been enhanced with touchscreen tablets and a living room showing Rogers’ Ignite IPTV service and connected home hub.

The store is also meant to feed insights back to Rogers as a testing lab, says Anne Martin-Vachon, chief retail officer at Rogers. That could include retail-focused insights – like how to design other flagship locations or adapt parts of it to more traditional stores – but also ones that touch the rest of its business, such as new ways to drive awareness for other Rogers properties, customer pain points and different compensation models for staff.

“There are 20 live tests that will be going on the minute we open the door,” says Martin-Vachon. “Executives are going to be upstairs a lot, it is close to the head office, and 50 million people are going to walk past this store next year. If we want to test a new thing, we can come down and do focus groups at the snap of a finger.”

Photo by Darren Goldstein/DSG Photo.