ICE, MESA Ponder Smartphone/Apple Retail Deals

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Here’s the new age of car electronics expediting: work out a deal with a local independent cellphone store or Apple retailer just like you would with a local Ford or GM dealership.

Phone stores could refer their customers to you for in-car Bluetooth kits and radios. Independent Apple stores could refer customers to you for iPod car kits.

And you could refer people to the Apple or phone store when your customers come in with old phones that won’t pair with a radio or iPods that are full to capacity. You might set up a small display in your store promoting the Apple or cellphone store or showcasing some phones or iPods.

Buying groups ICE (In Car Experts) and MESA (Mobile Electronics Specialists of America) are talking about setting up such an exchange of services.

MESA executive director Ryan Gunter said, “Definitely, these are the type of things we’re looking to do. Anything to drive additional traffic in the stores; especially the kind of traffic that would never think to go to a [car audio] specialist.”

ICE executive director Rob Elliott noted, “We’re looking into working on Apple and smartphone partnerships.”

Of course, retailers can strike this kind of deal individually. There are many independently owned Apple resellers and phone shops. Near us, for example is a “Wireless Zone,” in Orange, CT and “Wireless 4 U” in Fairfield. Also nearby are independent Apple resellers such as “Enterprise Computer,” which stocks iPods as well as Macs and the iPad is on the way. Apple is in the process of rolling out the tablet to independently owned Apple resellers and stores.

Large consumer electronics chains are already making such deals because phones and iPods (along with tablets and netbooks) bring traffic into the stores.
In June, hhgregg rolled out Verizon kiosks to all stores. Previously, the chain only sold a small selection of unlocked or pre-paid AT&T phones. Also, last month, Nebraska Furniture Mart opened up an online cellphone store. Best Buy, as you know, planted Apple mini departments within its stores.

Shortly before he left his executive post at MERA (Mobile Electronics Retailers Association), Barry Vogel said, “We’d be crazy not do that. The iPod is the center of the mobile universe.”

He added, “Where I see the biggest problem is I perceive that programs like this get enacted but not all mobile electronics retailers are on board….In the case of the smartphone, it should start at the AT&T [or other carrier] stores almost to the point that the carrier points out the safe use of the product. I’d love to see an arrangement with AT&T where when you go to buy your iPhone, you’re told how it can be integrated in the car with some kind of arrangement with local retailers. Driver safety is becoming a huge issue.”

Source: CEoutlook
Photo: Wireless Zone, Orange, CT and independently-owned Verizon Wireless dealer

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