"If I were Samsung, I would want to be on bended knee, in whatever form that took," said Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist and author of "Decoding the New Consumer Mind." "In some ways, they do have more limited opportunity to do that by virtue of the fact of nonbranded retailers to assist in that process."
The more sophisticated a product is, the more relevant it will be for a manufacturer to manage the relationship with the end consumer, Mendoza-Pena said.
Indeed, 75 percent of consumers shopping for electronics prefer to test the product in person during the shopping process, Mendoza-Pena said. For instance, Xiaomi, once thought to be China's Apple-killer, was upstaged by vendors like Oppo and Vivo offering physical locations.
When Apple first proposed the stores, it was to control an end-to-end experience for customers, writes Steve Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson. The idea faced criticism, but today, the stores have the highest sale per square foot out of more than 200 retailers, according to eMarketer data.
The success or failure of Samsung's recall, meanwhile, is likely to be comingled with the experiences consumers have in retail locations, Yarrow said.
"If they're having a really positive experience — being offered compensation, feeling seen, heard and taken care of — it could be positive for everybody," Yarrow said. "Even Samsung can recover a little bit of stature by truly taking care of people. But if it is a bad experience, everybody involved takes a hit."
There are plenty of good reasons for Samsung to forgo stores, said David Marcotte, senior vice president of retail insights at Kantar Retail.
"Samsung has experimented with doing stores — their product portfolio doesn't lend itself to a store layout the same way that Apple does," Marcotte said. "Apple has an extremely limited number of products they sell. Samsung has a huge portfolio of home goods and other consumer electronics."
Marcotte said it's an apples-to-oranges comparison between the two companies, because Apple has a strong emotional connection associated with its brand that hasn't been well-replicated by store brands like Microsoft. Plus, said Mendoza-Pena, the basic argument goes that companies should focus on their core competencies, and for a manufacturer like Samsung, that's not retail.
"If you think about the opportunity to leverage and establish a network of stores with a third party, that allows you to have massive reach, without the same level of cost," Mendoza-Pena said.
By vigorously investing in quality packaging, refunds and cooperation with retailers, Samsung is letting retailers run the well-oiled machine they know best, Marcotte added.
"As bad as the situation is, I cant fault [Samsung] for anything they're doing at the moment," Marcotte said. "Whatever works best, that's what they're doing."
— Reporting by CNBC's Courtney Reagan