Even as Android continues to chip away at their market share, there is one thing that Google or any of its OEMs hasn’t been able to replicate from Apple: the Apple Store experience. There’s just something about it that keeps you coming back to spend more. And it’s amazing how people don’t just seem to be shopping around, but actually enjoying the entire experience. In a market where a lot of online stores are putting brick-and-mortar establishments out of business, the Apple Store continues to thrive. So what’s their secret sauce?
All Products Are Easily Viewable and Accessible
Apple’s products are expensive. There’s just no other way around it. Yet they still sell so well. It’s especially remarkable since iOS holds close to 50% of the smartphone market share considering Apple makes its own iPhones while Android relies on numerous OEMs and brands for its success. One of the reasons people are so quick to pick up an iPhone, iPad or Mac is because they can easily try before they buy. Sure, other big name retailers do this as well, but with an Apple Store, you can easily spot what you want and try it out with minimal fuss. According to TheNextWeb.com:
All gadgets are functional, turned on, fully charged and demos loaded on the devices deliver great content. Everything you want to know about a product is clearly labeled, and if shoppers are in need of even more content, an Apple store employee is waiting only a few steps away to give them a full download, sometimes quite literally.
It’s almost like shopping online. When you go online, all the most popular products are displayed and if you click on one, all the information you need is typically there. The Apple Store is almost the exact same way.
Simplify Transactions for the Customer, Not You
The typical store layout has checkout counters to the front near the exits so people can pay for their purchases right as they leave. It’s a layout that has withstood the test of time with anything from a small convenience mart to a large scale warehouse superstore basing its layout on this. However, the distance between the points where a customer picks up an item and the checkout counter is a dangerous one as they can always change their mind. And the further the distance, the more likely it is that they might have second thoughts. Apple Stores make it convenient for people who want to buy their products because you can complete a transaction from anywhere within the store with an Apple Store employee. TheNextWeb.com says:
Any Apple store employee can help a customer complete their transaction via their mobile point-of-sale (POS) device from anywhere on the floor. No lines, no waiting, just real-time transactions.
Most people would prefer a streamlined layout that has that traditional layout of having a row of checkout counters near the exits. However, such a layout can introduce bottlenecks, long waits, and the likelihood that a customer changers their mind about the purchase. Allowing people to make a purchase through any Apple Store employee they encounter streamlines the experience for them, not you, and should be the focus. Recently though, there had been a new presence at the Apple Store: the dreaded iPad-wielding Apple employee. According to BrooksReview.net:
One of the greatest things about the Apple Store used to be that there were only two employee types: Geniuses and non-Geniuses. You knew the difference because the former always had a line of people waiting for them. At this time you could grab any free non-Genius, pay for your wares and leave. This experience was so great that stores like Nordstrom Rack implemented it to make checkout easy, non-location specific, and personable.
The introduction of the iPad-wielding employee was probably meant to make sure that people waiting for an Apple rep to get something done for them were given attention right away. Unfortunately, these iPad-wielding reps are kind of useless and are only responsible to get you someone who can facilitate your requests but can’t do anything on their own. They might have been well-intentioned, but Ben Brooks of BrooksReview.net says:
The time it took waiting for her to get someone to help me check out, was greater than the time it took for me to actually check out. The iPad-Wielding-Apple-Rep could have just checked me out and saved us all time. It’s not like she would have helped anyone else during that time.
This is an example of Apple chipping away at their own experience though, but keep it in mind anyway.
Stop Thinking Customer Service, Start Thinking Customer Experience
The thing about handling customers is that companies tend to think of it as an after-sales thing. Buy something from us first, and then we’ll resolve any problems with it later on. With Apple, they’ve certainly got the customer service part down. SocialEpisodes.com says it’s about two things:
The first is taking the time to listen to a customer’s issue. Listening to customer issues before acting is skill that many companies overlook. The second key is having relevant, up-to-date knowledge about and for your customers available everywhere and anywhere they may choose to interact with you. Most organizations have a lot of the knowledge they need to deliver a superior customer experience, but it is usually incomplete, and typically isn’t easily accessible to customers or frontline employees.
But for Apple, the experience starts well before a customer has actually purchased anything. Everything is well laid out and easily accessible. Customers are free to test Apple products and do anything they want for as long as they want. ContentMarketingInstitute.com says:
There are a lot of reasons, but I believe it’s because I can experience the store on my own terms. I can go in and play (yes, play) with all the Apple products. I can listen to music with Dr. Dre headphones. I can play Angry Birds on an iPad. I can test out the speed of the Mac Air while scrolling through some how-to videos on the iPad sitting right next to it. No dirty looks. No ‘excuse me sir, do you want to buy that”s. I can also choose not to talk to any of the employees in the store, and use the Apple Store App to research and buy on the spot with no human intervention.
For those of you who are promoting a physical establishment online, keep in mind that internet marketing can bring traffic to your doors, but the establishment is the basis for the entire brand message you are trying to send.