Friday, October 12, 2012

How Apple redefined the retail experience

The people who created the Apple Store are geniuses. I'll explain.

Every (expensive) product that Apple sells is out there on a desk, ready to be tried out. The only things packed away on shelves are (3rd party) accessories and they're packed away for good reason - the employees don't have a clue how good they are or which one is better than the other. Why? Because for the most part Apple doesn't make them. You're on your own, which in the grand scheme of things is just fine. Most customers are more likely to get over a crappy $20 accessory than a crappy $1200 computer.

All those iMacs and Macbooks and iPhones and iPads are there for you to play with and fall in love with and if you have any questions about what the product can do or how it works, there are dozens of qualified workers available to help you. Try and get that kind of service and knowledge of products from Best Buy or Future Shop. It's not going to happen. You'll be lucky to get someone who knows where the power button is.

But the superior service doesn't end during the selection phase either. Are you ready to buy? Out comes the portable debit/credit machine on the spot. No cashier necessary. No line-up either. Sweet. Would you like the receipt emailed to you? Of course you would! You begin to realize that you're in a different world here, a different era even. These folks are making traditional retailers look like amateurs stuck in the dark ages.

But we're not done. Would you like some training with that Macbook? The Apple Store has unpaid and paid training sessions to show you how to use your hardware and software better. I remember watching the faces of friends I told this to - it was pure disbelief. "They train the customers?" They sure do. But there's more. When something breaks, you bring it to the store to get diagnosed. They can often fix stuff right there too.

The Apple Store also has free wi-fi. So everyone who owns an iPhone for example knows as they pass the store that they're passing 'home base' as it were, a friendly place to drop in, connect to the internet and browse to see what's new.

So in case you're wondering why Apple does so well, it's not just the products, it's the whole experience.

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