While spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Houston with family, I got an email from Apple announcing their Black Friday sale featuring a rare discount plus free shipping for the iPad. I was weighing the convenience of ordering online vs. dealing with the biggest crowd of the year at the mall. My sister, Misty, suggested the mall route would be painless based on her own experience buying an iPad.
I headed to the mall and got to see exactly why Apple is so successful, despite the fact they usually charge full retail and have a lot of competition.
Thinking Outside the Box Store
Whomever designed Apple’s retail operation obviously threw out the playbook on how a retail electronics store should be run. The stores are very efficient.
As I’d done a lot of research online, I walked into the store knowing exactly what I wanted. The first thing I noticed is a LOT of staff on the floor. There were two employees handing out an ad for the Black Friday sale to everyone that walked in the door. Even though it was a one-day sale, the marketing piece well designed and printed on stock similar to a restaurant menu.
The store had a lot of customers but it took me all of ten seconds to find someone help and less than ten minutes later, I was on my way back to my car with an iPad in my hand and a big grin on my face. So, how’d they do it?
The Apple Store’s Keys to Success
Eliminate the Checkout Counter: Each employee carries an iPhone with an attachment that allows them to scan your credit card and print a receipt, on the spot. They also give you the option of having the receipt emailed to you. Brilliant. In addition to sparing customers the headache of waiting, it also eliminates ‘abandoned shopping carts’ due to long lines at a checkout area.
Keep the Inventory Next to the Display: No waiting while the salesperson disappears into a warehouse or searches for keys to unlock a cabinet.
Well Trained Employees: The salesperson offered to activate my iPad for me, which he told me would only take a few minutes. While activating it, he gave me helpful tips on the iPad and made sure all my questions were answered. Also, the staff seemed well-prepared for the holiday rush, too.
Pre-Charging the Batteries: One of the biggest downers when buying a portable electronics device is having to plug it in for several hours before getting to use it. The iPad was eighty percent charged right out of the box and I didn’t have to charge it for several days.
The Genius Bar: I didn’t take advantage of this one but Apple has specially trained employees ready to answer your questions, show you how to use your gear or repair it on the spot. You can book an appointment in the store or online. Compare that to trying to get a problem solved over the phone by someone in a call center halfway around the world or waiting days for repairs.
Although I know they aren’t perfect, Apple has put a lot of thought into their retail operation and come up with stores that are almost as cool as their products. It’s inspiring me to take a closer look at my business to see where I could be doing things more efficiently and provide better service to my clients. I’m looking closely for areas where I’m doing things a certain way just because that’s the norm.
Could you apply this to your business? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it.
Erion Shehaj says
The guy that Apple tapped to design the Apple store was a retail veteran from Target. The whole genius bar idea was his. Funny thing is, Jobs was reported to have hated the idea at the start.
Which goes to show, the cool kids don’t always know what’s best and should rely on a sometimes outdated concept: EXPERIENCE
Bill Hibbler says
Thanks, Erion. I read about how their design incorporates a lot of design elements from their products but wasn’t aware of who was behind it. Funny about Jobs, too. Then again I know the original owners of Starbucks hated the idea of actually serving coffee in the stores.
Martha Giffen says
What I am hearing loud and clear in this post is that Apple over-delivers. You are getting tips while waiting on them to perform a service, there are plenty of staff members available to wait on you, they make the whole experience fun and stress-free. Even during the busiest shopping day of the year. That’s my take away. They are there to serve YOU, and they are over-the-top in doing so 🙂
Bill Hibbler says
Martha, it’s true they’re over-delivering in the ‘traditional’ way of having plenty of staff that’s friendly and helpful but where we can also apply this in our own businesses is to re-examine the way we do things and see where we can eliminate bottlenecks, even when those things may seem, like the idea of a checkout lane or counter, absolutely necessary.
Some stores have people that do nothing but run cash registers. Others have staff that rotates from the floor to the cash registers. When the store gets busy, lines back up at the checkout lanes so staff is pulled off the floor to open new registers but then there is less staff on the floor to serve other customers so some may leave without buying or buying less than they would have. Apple eliminates that problem by making everyone on the floor a mobile cashier.