Series: 7 Days To Windows 8.1 Surface Point of Purchase Fail

Microsoft Surface Point of Purchase at Future Shop is a dismal display with one broken Surface RT and a screen locked Surface Pro (Photo Stephen Pate)

With a week before the launch of Microsoft Surface 2 and Windows 8.1, the Microsoft Surface is a dismal fail inside retailers

One of the reasons Microsoft wrote off $900 million in Surface tablets in the 3rd quarter was due to their poor marketing of the first release. Unless they pull up their marketing socks, Microsoft may be getting ready for weak results in the re-launch as Surface 2.

I was appalled when I went to look at the Surface Point-of-Purchase (POP) display at two local stores.  At Future Shop, in the picture above, the Surface RT was dead and the Surface Pro was locked out.  The Surface POP displays are smaller and less attractive than Apple iPad displays.

Microsoft’s dismal POP marketing may improve in 7 days. Perhaps they have new displays. That’s half the problem. If no one is checking the displays, the retailer is left to their own devices and underpaid retail sales help. Microsoft should be paying the retailer to keep up these POP displays for the Surface and use external audit teams to make sure the retailed keeps their commitment. Spiffing sales associates is recommended when launching new products in a competitive market.

Future Shop and their neglected Surface POP display

The idea of POP displays is to get consumers interested enough to make a retail purchase. It’s the classic impulse buy where location, attraction and emotion overcome the buyer’s resistance and a sale occurs. The Surface POP was located properly at the end of an aisle where impulse buyers like to shop. Things go downhill from there.

Dead gear in a POP is never going to sell the product. A dead Surface says – the Surface breaks. Future Shop should have swapped out the dead Surface. Being a geek, I tried to revive the dead cat but it would not boot.

Locking the browsing consumer is the 2nd way to kill a sale. Looking at the Surface Pro on the right, I couldn’t get past the lock screen.

It took about 10 minutes of walking around the Future Shop computer department in vain to find a sales person, going to the service desk and being escorted back to the Surface POP by a supervisor who could not revive the Surface RT but did know the password. Interestingly, none of the other Windows 8 computers were locked.

iPad POP display in Future Shop – bright attractive graphics and working demo units (Photo Stephen Pate)

The unflattering contrast with the Apple iPad POP to the left would give any 1st year Marketing grad nightmares. The Apple POP was brighter, bigger and inviting.

First it’s bigger, triple the height of the Microsoft Surface display. The Apple logo and word “iPad” can be seen throughout the store.

The white background has two pictures, one of a child on an iPad and another with a letter game and the word “Play.”

Apple has a tall black display at Staples stores that looks more professional, which is right for that market.

The demo iPads are mounted at the right height for trying them and they work. A cynic would not they need to be on pedestals since the iPad does not have a stand like the Microsoft Surface.  Being at the correct height for standing consumers is an important detail since it feels good to use the iPads but you have to bend over to type on the Surface.

I went back 4 days later and the dead Surface RT was still on the display. A customer had to ask to have the Surface Pro demo. The sales associate mumbled something about kids playing games on them.

Over at Staples

Microsoft Surface POP at Staples – larger than Future Shop with better graphics and working demo units (Photo Stephen Pate)

Staples has a better POP display, larger with better graphics and 3D keyboard display. It could be improved with a graphic of an attractive human. Our eyes are drawn to pictures of people. Oddly, while the display is on an end-of-aisle, it’s not near the other computers.  You have to be looking for it like: doesn’t Staples carry the Surface? Oh yeah, I found it.

At Staples, the demo units worked and were in a rolling display program that was easy to get past. The keyboard on the Surface RT didn’t work, another no-no. Broken gear should be replaced in POP displays.


The bottom line is more people are buying the Apple iPad and will continue to buy them as long as Microsoft does not market the Surface more professionally.

Apple has sold retail products for 4 decades and their new Apple stores win awards for attractiveness and POP efficiency. Microsoft has a lot to learn and will suffer poor sales until they get it right.

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