The Apple Retail Experience

It’s the Christmas shopping season — our first without Steve Jobs. Still,  what a perfect time to talk about Apple. It goes without saying that Apple is redefining and reshaping the retail experience via the company’s growing roster of stand-alone stores. But there’s something even bigger going on here, akin to how online show retailer is turning the traditional rules of e-commerce upside down.

The stores are unlike any other. White and bright. With some of the most beautifully designed hi-tech merchandise neatly displayed, screaming “come try me out.” Has there ever been a retail environment so tuned to the brand image?

The customer service is astounding. Within seconds, there is someone at your side to guide you to a solution just right for your needs. They know how to translate technology into value. You desperately want it all — the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod.

They help you pick out stuff just right for you and close the sale instantly while you are surrounded with gleaming “I wants” — run your credit card while you stand there (no long lines behind cash registers) so they can process more sales more quickly and move you on so efficiently that you find yourself outside the store with your new iApple stuff and you hardly know you were in the store.
Things once considered the dark side of Apple, such as tech support, are on the verge of becoming strategic assets, with the Apple Store’s geek-stocked Genius Bar able to tackle just about any issue or concern your have. And the process of planning that interaction is more akin to scheduling a haircut or spa treatment than calling those inaccessible tech-support lines.

Whether explicitly acknowledged or not, there’s an unmistakable “service is marketing” mantra pervading every aspect of the Apple Store. And that’s something every brand, even those not as shiny as Apple’s, can learn from. The opportunity to solve problems, find solutions and even address “the darn thing doesn’t work” emotional pain-points all lead to a higher impact-marketing and sales proposition.

While not every marketer has a Steve Jobs-inspired vision, every consumer-facing company has problems that can be converted into opportunities to inspire loyalty.

Customers are finding Apple on their own because Apple is reaching out to them with unique investments in the customer relationship.

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