In-store product labs


I’m not sure if they still do it, but Range Rover used to provide a special test drive area at their dealerships. The idea was to let potential buyers drive the cars over rocks, up slopes, and through other harsh conditions — much worse than most people would ever use their vehicle in — to solidify the brand’s claims about all-terrain versatility. So, if this works for cars, why can’t it be extended to other products?

Mostly, I’m thinking about this for mobile gear. Retailers could build an in-store lab featuring their own products and popular alternatives from their competitors, and let customers put them through their paces. Want to see how much weight that new laptop adds to your bag? Drop it in there and find out. How much lighter is it than the other guy’s cheaper model? Try them both and see. With a little creativity, you could even simulate things like using the laptop on a plane or in a cab.

But don’t places like the Apple Store already do this? Yes and no. The products are there in full view, but you can’t do things like put them in your bag and see what it’s like to walk around with them. I’m pretty certain this is a compromise they made for theft prevention, since products on a leash are harder to steal. Of course, stores already use anti-theft tags to prevent you from walking out the door without paying for something, so I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to try cutting the cord for demo gear. At a minimum, it would be interesting to see if people buy more when they start with an unrestricted product trial experience.