There’s no doubting that Apple’s iOS devices and Macs are popular, especially when you see the lines stretching outside of the company’s retail stores during each product release. However, it’s sometimes hard to see what the company has revolutionized that isn’t a shiny touchscreen device. That is the Apple Retail Store, which is used to educate customers about Apple products, provide technical assistance, and, in many cases, serve as an unlocked Wi-Fi network for passers-by. Apple’s retail stores have helped to revolutionize retail as we know it, crafting customer service and store design into an art. Let’s look at what Apple has included in their store that has revolutionized retail experiences, both in America and internationally.
With the Genius Bar, Apple eliminated the process of shipping defective products, for the most part. By providing customers with the opportunity to get help with their products in-store, Apple is not only saving itself money but is attaching a human experience with their products, something that is lost in today’s corporate society. Apple’s Genius Bar can fix a range of issues, from broken iOS and Mac products, to older generations of the iPod to even some third party products that Apple sells in its stores.
Apple’s Genius Bar is one of the first of its kind, and since its formation in May of 2001, a number of other companies have adopted its design and function. Some of these companies include Microsoft, which has recreated Apple’s retail model in its own stores with employees wearing similar t-shirts and ID tags, and with the products set up on wooden tables with glass pedestals.
Product Display Tables
Apple’s product displays are unlike anything that was ever seen by the public before the company opened its retail stores. As mentioned before, a lot of companies are now adopting this new set-up because of how it attracts customers. Apple’s products are lined up on top of the table and set up in such a way that it is natural for a customer to walk into a store, walk over to a table and pick up the product. This is exactly what Apple wants; a customer to be able to feel as comfortable as possible with the product.
If Apple simply placed a non-functional display model in a booth with a black security wire attached to it, customers wouldn’t feel comfortable approaching the device. Wood gives a certain vibe to the entire store, and the clear glass pedestals help to focus the attention entirely on the device. Product display tables may not make a big difference if the product isn’t a great one to begin with, but they do attract customers to the product, and that is always key to selling a product.
All-Glass Storefront Design
Apple’s all glass storefront design was also a first for the retail industry when they introduced it. The idea of having a store without any brick walls was revolutionary, daring, and awesome. All of Apple’s glass designs include a glowing Apple logo in the middle, which helps add to the mystique of the store. In some of Apple’s retail locations in New York City and Shanghai, the glowing logo lights up several blocks. This automatically captures the attention of people who tend to naturally gravitate to the store just to see what is going on inside. The clear glass also allows customers to see the product display tables, which then draws them to the products. Think of the lights as an extension of the store, and of it being used as a ad in itself. The store’s exterior glass design is as important as the Cupertino company placing ads all over New York City.
Apple organizes its employees parallel to how customers shop in their stores. Customers are always moving around the store, and so the employees should be available to help if needed. In most stores, customers line up at a cash register and get assisted by employees who are standing behind a counter. Not only does this make the transaction very mechanical, but it impedes conversation between the employee and the customer. Employees for a large corporation such as Apple are the face of the company, because Tim Cook can’t be there for every transaction, for every store, and in every city.
Apple Store employees are the ones who talk to the customers, assist them with their issues and ultimately help collect revenue for the company. So why stick them behind a counter and cut the line of communication? Apple’s current setup allows employees to ring up a customer at any place in the store via a credit card reader that is attached to an iPod touch. As a result, customers are facing the employee, can ask questions and are out of the store faster than if they were standing in a line.
All of these retail tactics can be found in some form in retail models for other major tech companies—even some clothing and food companies that use the same checkout system as Apple. But Apple was the first to offer the combination in a way that still provides one of the best shopping experiences available.