If You Build It, They Will Come

With Samsung 837, Michael Koch has helped create a technological field of dreams to redefine the retail experience and the consumer journey

For Michael Koch, there’s a clear distinction between an impression and a sale. While a sales environment may place pressure on a consumer to make a purchase, an impression is crafted by a planned approach and doesn’t seek immediate commitment.

In other words, Koch wants the company’s products to speak for themselves. If someone can relate to a product, it’s more likely to have a positive impact on their lives, and thus retain a greater lifetime value for consumers.

The senior director of store development and facilities for Samsung recently gave a presentation in New York on the importance of simple, planned impressions inspired by today’s economic standards. For the first time in history, the economy has five generations of key players, ranging from baby boomers to centennials. Koch has observed that these two groups in particular don’t communicate well based on the role technology had in their upbringings. Unsurprisingly, it’s had an impact on how people work, shop, live, and relate to one another. If a company relies too much or too little on new technology to execute growth in retail, then it risks isolating a large portion of its audience.

“Another generation of children is entering the purchasing market that retail is not quite prepared for yet,” Koch explains. “This younger generation thinks, acts, interacts, and shops very differently, and retailers will need to make a shift to accommodate them in the retail environment.”

One of his solutions for Samsung is to simplify. “One Samsung” is the company’s attempt to bridge its expansive retail product line under the same comprehensible approach. However, this is no easy task considering its 50,000-plus entities are composed of home and mobile electronics, home appliances, virtual reality, and more. The end result would make that number less intimidating and encourage customers to approach more products after picking up just one.

“We’re working to get people to understand how our products fit in their life and their day-to-day activities,” Koch says. “We’re taking that same model and switching from focusing on the past to the future, creating a simple platform from which all of our products are displaced and presented to the consumer.”

Samsung 837 is the company’s “field of dreams”—inspired by this mind-set. Located in the heart of New York City’s revitalized Meatpacking District, 837 opened in the first quarter of 2016 and is the company’s first physical retail space. The store doesn’t sell anything, though, which has prompted many to call it “the un-store.” Instead, Samsung has created a modular technological playground meant to create a dialogue with its customers and allow them to craft unique experiences within its walls.

And visitors have plenty to do. The building includes a recording studio, a virtual reality tunnel, the world’s largest indoor multimedia display (a 90-foot wall built from 96, 55-inch television screens), a live performance space, and a 360-degree infinite selfie station. Some areas are on a rotating basis to excite visitors for what will happen next. Small businesses can also visit the building’s third floor to consult with Samsung and execute business planning. It’s a fine example of how Samsung’s diverse product line can bring people together.

The public reception of Samsung 837 has been wildly positive. MediaPost celebrated its ability to create demand; Forbes called it one of the best global brand experiences; and design:retail named it the best store design of the year. This response couldn’t be more enlightening for Koch.

“Samsung 837 was the accumulation of everything I’ve done in my career, from a consumer, team, marketing, construction, real estate, and development-facing perspective,” he says. “The consumers are interacting with the space exactly as we wanted them to. All of that time and effort, especially in those closing two months, has proved to be very gratifying.”

Koch is thrilled to bring people together in new and different ways in the future, meaning the 837 concept will never be replicated. He learned that lesson while working with Apple, where he assisted with constructing many of the company’s top-performing stores overseas. The company believes that a store’s appearance should complement its surrounding community, and indoor finishes should resemble something from 100 years ago. “We always said each store was honest to its environment; we didn’t want to have an Apple store just sitting in the middle of the Louvre. You’ll never see another store similar to one that already exists anywhere else in the world because they are honest and centric to their location,” Koch says.

Considering 837’s diversity and impact, Samsung has some high standards to compete against to achieve greater success. Instead of penetrating a new, high-cost operation, Koch would rather continue to concentrate on exploring the company’s products and maintaining its impressive speed.

“I get the biggest kick out of watching it go faster, and how we can implement an impression or fixture 4,000–5,000 times in the span of two weeks. You will not witness our speed in many other retailers in the US, and I would challenge further saying anywhere in the world,” he says.

Koch has donated the same outlook outside of the real estate world as well. In2008, he founded The Road Ahead Foundation, a charity organization that “creates awareness and financially [assists] orphanages and continuum care facilities for children worldwide.”

He was first exposed to the epidemic in Switzerland while managing the international build-out for Guess. It was here that Koch often passed by an orphanage on his way to work. He realized few children can adequately survive in such conditions given their resources.

“Even though the word ‘orphanage’ is no longer PC to say, it doesn’t mean the problem has gone away,” Koch says. “If anything, it has gotten much worse. If you put all of the world’s orphans in one country, it would be larger than Mexico and Japan, and would be the world’s 10th largest nation.”

This sparked him to seek out orphanages in Switzerland, London, Miami, and Dallas so that he could introduce them to business connections, corporations, and volunteers. These connections then help to replace damaged goods, make repairs, and assist in any other way possible.This includes mentorship of young men and women entering the workforce.

The yearly charity event in Dallas has welcomed guest speakers such as former first lady Laura Bush; Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, school teacher during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and author of Choosing Hope; and will be hosting Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington in 2017.

Koch is giving his all to bring positive experiences to people’s lives in and out of the office. He is a professional that wants to shift the world’s perception on how they view his passions, and so far, he is exceeding expectations.