16: Smartphones in Furniture Stores? Here’s How AT&T and Nationwide are Helping Reshape Independent Retail

Written by Rob Stott

April 7, 2020


Moving into the second year of a partnership with AT&T, Nationwide Marketing Group Director of Connected Services Eric Sindelar dives deep into what the wireless carrier offers independent retailers of all shapes and sizes.

Rob Stott: All right, we’re back on the Independent Thinking Podcast here live from PrimeTime in Houston and this is Rob Stott, Communications Manager here for Nationwide and sitting down right now with Eric Sindelar. My fellow first timer in a sense.

Eric Sindelar: Yes, first time together.

Rob Stott: Here at PrimeTime. Eric, I appreciate you taking the time, sitting down with us. Director of Connected Services.

Eric Sindelar: Correct.

Rob Stott: Like I said, a PrimeTime first-timer. That doesn’t roll off the tongue very easily. PrimeTime first-timer. How are things going for you?

Eric Sindelar: For both of us.

Rob Stott: I know, right?

Eric Sindelar: Well you’ve been here before. You’ve been here before but the first time as an employee and first time for me.

Rob Stott: Yeah. Yes.

Eric Sindelar: I’ll tell you what, it’s been an incredible experience. We had our Champions. It’s a two-day event that we bring in the members, owners, and operators, we teach them how to sell our services. With AT&T we’re offering wireless, we’re offering broadband and entertainment services. We teach them on how to offer those in these different environments, whether it’s with a television or attaching it to appliances, we walk them through that process and how to use the tools and services. It was great.

Rob Stott: Get into that a little more, because I know you say you’re teaching them the services. What goes on? There’s like full-on role-playing going on in these classes, right, as far as what the training looks like and how in-depth it really gets.

Eric Sindelar: Yeah. It’s so immersive. We call it hands-on. We’re not teaching out, “Hey, this is your rate plan and this is your …” We’re teaching on where to find the tools and resources and how you incorporate it into the sales process. That’s the first portion. Then the second portion is let’s be hands-on and let’s actively do it and participate and use those things, so it’s an immersion where you start to teach and train. You understand how to utilize those tools.

Rob Stott: Sure.

Eric Sindelar: It’s a great experience for them.

Rob Stott: I know that we’re sitting here, day one of the expo, the training happened the two days prior so those guys are done. What feedback have you heard from them? I’m sure you got plenty while the sessions were going on, so what are members saying about what that was like and what you guys can take back and learn for maybe Champions 3?

Eric Sindelar: Yeah. Being in consumer electronics for 20 years and in the wireless industry for five years, sometimes a two-day session you’re like, what are those real takeaways? What was so amazing, Rob, is where they come out and they’re going, the confidence that they see, going, “Wow, I can really do this.” Sometimes when you’re talking about services, something you can’t touch and feel, it makes it more challenging. But one, being able to present it confidently and very easily and saying, like I see your phone right there and I can go, “Hey, you got your phone right there, Rob. Hey, what carrier you on?” Easily being able to tie that in. Those are some of the things that we taught them where they can do it, and also to being able to use the system. Our partnership with AT&T, we also are partnered with DSI, and with DSI the system that we use is SARA Plus.

Rob Stott: Yeah.

Eric Sindelar: Being able to do transactions, a services transaction in less than, in 15 minutes, is absolutely amazing and they leave there with the confidence going, “I can do this.”

Rob Stott: That’s unbelievable. I know last show in New Orleans, getting to sort of see that first go-around of what AT&T, again I guess show zero I’ll have to call it because it doesn’t count as number one but to see what the reaction from Champions was and then to get into the booth and see what, not only the retail displays are awesome, but then you mentioned talking about the process of what it’s like to buy from these independent retailers. Seamless experience. No inventory management that they have to worry about, so it’s not a drag on your warehouse or stock room that you got. This is a simplified program that makes the barrier to entry for these members, it’s very limited in a sense.

For the retailer out there that may be on the fence like well, why would wireless or why would offering something from AT&T make sense in my store? What’s that conversation, whether it’s around the simplified process or why it makes sense. What would you tell them?

Eric Sindelar: Something that you hit on is really key. No inventory cost is really key, and I want to expand on this. If somebody wanted to be in the wireless business and do a relationship with AT&T, it’s a long process. You’re talking five to six months to get that setup to go direct with them. In addition to that, it’s a heavy investment. Between having an AT&T program, marketing, all that stuff, it’s a half a million-dollar investment when you tie in inventory as well.

With us, we’re able to cut down the timeframe so it’s not five to six months. You can be up and running in as little as 21 days to be able to start selling products and services. Then all those franchise fees, anything like that, we cover all that. As being a Nationwide member there’s zero cost for this program so we can get you up and running.

Rob Stott: That’s crazy.

Eric Sindelar: Yeah. We’re so proud to be able to offer that.

Rob Stott: Yeah, and I know something we talked about too is that kind of the headline, or I don’t want to call it the headline necessarily, but the thing I think people think about most when you’re talking about AT&T and the offerings and you see the cell phone, smartphone displays that we’ve got out here, is the phone. But there’s a lot more to this and I know there’s more coming down the road here. I just want you to hit on as far as what other opportunities our members have in getting involved within AT&T and DSI.

Eric Sindelar: Yeah. Of course, we have wireless, and one of the things I do want to hit on wireless is you get special promotions that nobody else gets. That drives where you could use your current customer base and draws more customers in, so it’s a great opportunity there above and beyond what the national offers are. There are broadband services, so now with the internet of things and as we grow with 5G there’s going to be more capabilities. AT&T offers broadband in several markets.

Then in addition to that, we have DirecTV as well that we offer from an entertainment and services standpoint, and soon launching-

Rob Stott: Yeah, this is the big one. This is what gets me jazzed. I cannot wait.

Eric Sindelar: We are going to have AT&T TV.

Rob Stott: Yeah.

Eric Sindelar: We’ve got a demo going and we’ve just done so many demos already, and our members are amazed at this product. What it does, Rob, is it pulls, it’s like an aggregator. It pulls together all of your Hulu, Netflix, it pulls it all in one. It’s got a voice remote, so you can say, “Hey, I want to watch baseball,” and it’ll pull up everything that’s for baseball. You’ll be able to take a look at all those products and services across all the different types of streams.

In addition to that, it might get warm in the room. You might be getting excited because of the baseball game you’re watching and you might want to go-

Rob Stott: Getting fired up.

Eric Sindelar: Yeah, you’re getting a little excited. You go, “Hey Google, turn the temperature down.” It’s a Google remote to also control the connected home.

Rob Stott: Wow. That’s crazy.

Eric Sindelar: With AT&T TV it aggregates all those services that you have. It offers local channels. It’s going to be able to control the connected home. Five hundred hours of recording.

Rob Stott: Geeze.

Eric Sindelar: That’s cloud-based, so no matter wherever you are …

Rob Stott: Five hundred, so that’s roughly, I believe you could just about hold the entire Game of Thrones collection. Just about.

Eric Sindelar: And then some, Rob.

Rob Stott: And then some, yeah.

Eric Sindelar: And then some. You’d be able to do all that, and you can binge-watch as much as you want, Rob. Then you can watch it from anywhere.

Rob Stott: Yeah. It’s crazy. It’s great, it’s a really, really cool offering and it’s something that, it’s exciting to see that it’s going to be available to members and it kind of leads to another point, is that something we’ve been talking about a lot is that a struggle for customers, there’s a constant fight for foot traffic, right? Not even just foot traffic, different foot traffic. Your typical appliance dealers might see seven to 10 years I believe is the refresh cycle. We’re talking about smartphones, they’re coming out every, it’s not every year at this point. Different carriers … Pardon me, not carriers, different manufacturers. You’ve got your Apples, your Samsungs, your LGs, they’re rolling phones out basically every quarter. Google has their Pixel. You’re talking about the opportunity to showcase these things in your store and attract younger customers, more frequent customers. It sort of sells itself, doesn’t it?

Eric Sindelar: Yeah. You think about maybe an appliance, furniture, it might be, I don’t know, every seven to 10 years that that customer might come back looking for those things. With phones you’re talking every maybe 18 to 24 months and actually with AT&T there’s a rate plan called Next Up. I see your phone, I’m just staring at it. It’s beautiful.

Rob Stott: Thank you.

Eric Sindelar: Rob, you’re like the latest and greatest.

Rob Stott: Yeah.

Eric Sindelar: You’re probably updating your phone every single year.

Rob Stott: Unintentional plug, I may have AT&T and this may be the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Eric Sindelar: All right, well we love that Rob. We love that about you. With a rate plan like Next Up you can actually get the phone, trade that one in, and every single year you’re eligible to get the latest and greatest device. What that does for our members is that repeat foot traffic coming in and being able to get them the latest and greatest devices. Yeah, we’re really excited about that.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. As we look ahead here, we’re at PrimeTime right now but kind of moving forward, we got AT&T TV coming up. What else excites you about 2020 for this membership?

Eric Sindelar: First off, 5G. We’ve got 5G on the horizon and when we look back at 2019, 10+ million 5G phones sold. For our members to be able to offer their customers the latest and greatest in technology, to get that new customer base coming in, we’re going to be upwards of hundreds of thousands of 5G phones that are going to be sold, so excited about that.

We’re excited about AT&T TV. And the rate plans. I definitely want to hit on that from a wireless standpoint. The price point on rate plans, it’s the best in the industry. For all those, our member is able to educate their customers on these rate plans, educate on 5G, and being able to bundle all these things together and give one simple price. It’s an amazing service and offering. 5G on the horizon, Rob. I’m super excited.

Rob Stott: Definitely a reason I know, talk about Apple, that 5G phone might launch this year so I think there might be a reason to do the Next Up.

Eric Sindelar: Yes.

Rob Stott: We’ll see. We’ll see.

Eric Sindelar: Great, great.

Rob Stott: Eric, I appreciate you coming over, chatting with us. I know this is PrimeTime, so I know there’s meetings back to back to back to back to back, even if it’s our first one. We got a busy schedule.

Eric Sindelar: It’s been really busy.

Rob Stott: Have you had time to enjoy Houston?

Eric Sindelar: No. To be perfectly honest, Rob, no I haven’t. As you said, I’ve been to some restaurants and had meetings there.

Rob Stott: Yeah. On to the next.

Eric Sindelar: Then in fact right before this you had to come to grab me because I was in a meeting. It’s been busy. I’ve had a blast.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome.

Eric Sindelar: From Champions, that was a great time. We had 100+ Champions that we train. We’re so excited about that. Now with the members, our AT&T booth right now-

Rob Stott: It’s rocking. It’s packed over there.

Eric Sindelar: As you came over-

Rob Stott: It’s packed over there.

Eric Sindelar: We’re packed with everybody. All our new members are so excited about this program. We’re educating them on all these products and services that we have to offer. It’s been a busy week, Rob, but it’s been a blast for my first PrimeTime.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. Let you go get back to that busy schedule. Eric, I appreciate it and enjoy the rest of the show and we’ll be chatting soon.

Eric Sindelar: Sounds great. Thanks a lot, Rob.

Rob Stott: You got it.



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