“This is not a shop”
This is the message that flashes up on a giant, 10-meter curved screen that dominates one corner of Samsung KX, a new, innovative showroom in London’s hip Kings Cross area. Yes, you play with plenty of Samsung tech, but there’s no stock, no sales people, and no pressure to buy the toy you’re messing around with.
What is it then? It could just be the future of retail.
For those that don’t know the area, Kings Cross is not just about the train station or visited only by those trying to get to Hogwarts. It’s home to King’s College London and University College London, and the beautiful buildings around the area host the annual Designjunction event, where cutting edge design is showcased to an international audience. Both Google and Facebook have London offices just moments away.
Situated in Coal Drops Yard, built in 1850 as London’s main coal store, the location has been rebuilt for use today while retaining the classic exposed brickwork, ironwork, and cobbles for a unique look. Samsung KX takes up a 20,000 square-foot space above boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes, plus it’s located near the banks of London’s canals — so visiting it can easily be combined with other activities. It’s surrounded by those interested not just in technology, but also in strong design, and the way both shape the future.
Events, graffiti, and beyond
Because KX isn’t a pop-up with a prohibitively short lifespan, Samsung is using the space to great effect. It holds short training lectures, I was present for a class on taking travel photos; more interestingly, KX is open to the community. Yoga classes, cooking and kitchen demonstrations, film showings, and more are all on the schedule over the coming months.
At its heart, KX is a high-tech playground. The new Galaxy Note 10 is featured prominently, but there’s plenty more. Besides the Gear VR-driven racing games and the opportunity to check out Samsung’s stunning 8K television, there are some real gems to discover. The giant curved screen becomes a canvas for digital graffiti, enabled using custom Samsung Galaxy S10 phones hidden inside spray can cases. Sensors behind the screen recognize the “spray,” and paint incredibly realistic graffiti art on various backgrounds. It’s fun, creative, and surprisingly realistic, without any anti-social or destructive side-effects.
It’s fun, creative, and surprisingly realistic, without any anti-social or destructive side-effects.
There’s the chance to custom design your own free Samsung phone case, but these aren’t the only creative outlets — there’s a DJ booth where you can mix your own music and even record it to take home, plus an augmented reality message tree where digital notes are left for others; but the most unusual is the chance to laser etch your own design into a 3D wooden egg. Why? No idea, but it’s very cool to see.
Repairs and more
That’s all before you get started playing around with smartphones, smart home tech, and TVs. There’s even an interactive car interior that provides a glimpse of what Samsung believes connected cars will be like in the future. There’s easily enough to keep everyone entertained for a couple of hours.
There’s another reason you may need to visit Samsung KX, and that’s if you break your phone. It has a repair center on-site, where it aims to turn around complex repairs in 24 hours, and should be able to replace a broken screen in an hour. If you want to learn about your Samsung device, one-on-one tutorial sessions can be booked too.
Finally, Samsung sees KX as a co-working space. There are shared desks next to the coffee shop, complete with power and Wi-Fi, plus a meeting room hidden off in the corner. It’s available for rent, and to ensure occupant’s privacy, the glass turns opaque at the touch of a button.
An alternative retail experience
Because there’s no sales pressure and because it’s a space for people to just come and enjoy, it’s relaxing and inviting. I’m writing this sitting at one of the desks and enjoying a mocha. It’s all very pleasant, and I’d definitely return. But apart from spreading the Samsung word, what’s in it for the company?
While there’s no stock at Samsung KX, the staff will help you order from the online store should you want to buy something. Samsung doesn’t see KX as a store of any kind — it sees it as the future of retail shopping. It’s a showroom, a soft-sell environment where people come and experience Samsung products, are introduced to the ecosystem, and make their own decisions to buy or not.
There’s no sales pressure. It’s a space for people to just come and enjoy.
Ordering a product online without actually touching it is common today, but hardly optimal. Samsung KX is where you go to try out the Note 10 Plus, the Galaxy Watch Active 2, or Samsung’s smart refrigerator before deciding to buy, without a commission-driven salesperson behind you or even a time limit. Then you sit down and have a coffee, and no-one minds. Buying from Amazon is convenient, but many want to try-before-they-buy, and Samsung KX is an innovative alternative to regular high street Samsung stores.
Samsung’s shrewd though and will introduce its products where and when it can. For example, anyone attending the yoga classes can try out a Galaxy Watch or Samsung fitness band at the same time, demonstrating the tracking capabilities in an inclusive and interesting way. When you create the design to etch into the wooden egg, it’s done so using the Galaxy Note and a stylus. The staff all know the products, everyone is very enthusiastic, and Samsung hardware is demonstrated in a way that sells without the act of them actually being sold.
Samsung is supremely confident at the moment. It knows the value of its hardware, understands the importance of engaging people in new ways, and recognizes just how tough the market is. Samsung KX is the response. The grand opening takes place on September 3, but you can visit now if you want to avoid the crowds, and it’s well worth your time.
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