Samsung partners with Best Buy for mini-stores

JO YONG-HAK/REUTERS - Students walk out of a showroom at the headquarters of Samsung Electronics in Seoul in this October 28, 2011 file photograph.

Samsung is making a move into the brick-and-mortar world, announcing Thursday that it will launch 1,400 mini-stores in Best Buy locations across the United States starting this month. The effort fits well with the company’s marketing push as it ramps up its competition with Apple — which, of course, has mini-stores in Best Buy locations as well.

According to a press release from the smartphone maker, around 900 of the mini-stores, which will showcase a range of Samsung products, will be up and running by early May. The mini-shops give Samsung a greater — and more unified — presence among American consumers, not only showing off the brand’s full range of gadgets in one place but also by giving Samsung-specific instructions to consumers in a way similar to the Apple Genius Bar.

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Having staff specifically trained on Samsung products on hand will help the company as it launches its Galaxy S 4 phone, which is expected to hit the U.S. market at the end of May. The new phone has a number of features that may require a little more consumer education, such as new camera features and a gesture-controlled menu navigation, so it’s smart for Samsung to get into stores ahead of that major launch.

The expanded retail presence also gives Samsung the opportunity to bill itself as a platform rather than simply a gadget-maker, by highlighting how its tablets, smartphones, camera, televisions and laptops can share information through shared services.

That’s been a successful strategy for Apple, which has been particularly good at showcasing how iPad and iPhone users reap benefits from also owning a Mac computer, Apple TV, iPod or other device that taps into the larger Apple ecosystem through the App Store or services such as iCloud.

Samsung and Apple are in tight competition for the U.S. mobile market, with Apple leading Samsung as the top smartphone maker with 38 percent to 21 percent, according to data released last month from comScore.

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