Saturday, 16 June 2012

Apple Stores

Inspired by a Tweet I read from likehacker about the tricks retailers use to get customers to interact with and ultimately make a purchase. The headline, contained "Apple" so naturally I was drawn in. Life hacker stated that all the MacBooks instore have their screens angled at 70 degrees, but maybe not for the reason you think. Of course having all the screens angled the same creates uniformity and looks great. Question: whats better than one shinny new MacBook? Answer: A whole play table full of them, all showcasing shiny graphics and multi tasking apps. But that's not the underlying answer, it's to encourage you to make a connection with that product, to touch it, to play with, to get hands on. Or if your of school age, on half term to check and update your fb status!

It got me thinking with Apple's eye for detail, the old saying retail is detail what other subtleties do Apple and other retails engage with in encouraging the need to buy.

Starting outside the store, the customer journey starts. Exactly central across the fascia is the unmistakable apple logo, lit, just like it is on the MacBook. Set usually either side a glass fronted window, with the latest product, say a massive iPhone, iPad or Mac. Simple and effective. Entering the store your usually acknowledged buy greeter, one central isle leads straight up the the Genius Bar. The 1st tables laden with the latest generation tech, equally spaced with accompanying iPad for the specs. Pre iPad the info cards, because the were cards, we not interactive in any way. Now the iPad, running custom software shouts to be touched, stroked and pressed. From this info hub an Apple helper can be "hailed."

The grey slate flooring contrasts the natural wooden tables, again the lines of the tiles lead you the Genus bar. Eye level light murals carry symbolic Apple product images along each wall. In common with almost all retail premises are the light levels, nice and bright. Countless research proves, bright light means alert shoppers and staff, we perform at our best in well light conditions. It turns out, in the Pre organic chicken, battery hen days heavily controlled light intensity and extended lit hours increased egg production. Some retailers even phase their lighting to mimic the sun, starting off dimmer in early morning, increasing in Lux during the day. Or course, in the same way, the ringing of the bell in the pub indicates we're closing, the dimming if the lights can signify the same thing.

Apples "uniform" is a strange one ad the idea of a uniform, say when your at school is that everyone looks the same. Theoretically with everyone wearing the same no one can be discriminated against and everyone has equal opportunity.

With Apple the uniform element is torso centric, meaning block colour tops. Employees keep their individuality by wearing shorts, pumps, ect of their choice. This emphasises creativity, one of Apples pillars.

When you go to a festival or club or concert you might be given a pass to wear around you neck. This pass is like a form of belonging. It says I belong, I'm part of this. I think it's the same at Apple, although customers don't get to wear a pass, talking to someone who does can have the same empowerment. Apple passes, are better than a corporate name badge and the passes themselves store crib cards for log ons and door passes or sim tray removal tools, all beautifully designed.

The Genius bar, is cleverly marketed, and like an old fashioned barman, you tell the genius your woes. Seated at the alter, with your personal genius, you would be forgiven for thinking bars snacks and beers are dispensed, instead at this exclude bar an be accessed via an app advice and solutions are the order of the day.

Having used the service myself, it was effortless, from start to finish. I had a problem with responsiveness of my iPhones home button, quickly a solution was provided and I left the store with a new replacement handset. No fuss, no "needing to call the manager" and without proof of purchase. In fact quicker than I takes to swap a faulty hair dryer. All because Apple systems work, all I needed was to book the appointment, bring myself and my iPhone. Having a seat at the Genius also means you and your product get 100% attention, Apple are keen that your purchase isn't the end of your visits to their retail churches.

One thing I think is unique about apple stores is their EPOS (Electronic Point Of Sale) There are no fixed tills, this is unlike virtually any other store. This brings flexibility as where ever you are in the store the till can come to you. Receipts, like those from the App store are emailed to you later, for paper and guilt free shopping. It's almost like you haven't paid for the items, the email to you later is a reminder of course, by that time you will have been enjoying your new toy/app/game for a while anyway. Apple can also mail you, when the new iPad, iPhone or Mac drops.

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