Here in the Bay area we’re blessed with more than our fair share of Apple Stores. Depending upon the time of day you’re merely a few minutes drive from a nearby Store to pick up accessories or have your Mac, iPhone, or iPad serviced at a Genius Bar.
As an Apple customer I’ve devoted more than my share of time waiting for a genius, or upping my credit card balance, or standing in line to get the newest Apple gadget. So, I laughed at the article which itemized four ways the Apple Store has revolutionized retail.
A Rose By Any Other Name
That Apple’s retail stores are a smashing success is as obvious as the Apple logo which graces each product.
Hundreds of Apple stores worldwide have become a mecca or shrine for tens of millions of customers to try and buy and service their Apple products.
How has the Apple Store revolutionized retail shopping? Kaled Ali says there are four ways Apple created another revolution. I don’t think so. A store is a store is a store, just as a rose by any other name remains a rose.
The argument seems to boil down to Genius Bar, Product Display Tables, the Glass Storefront, and Employee Organization as the major ways Apple has revolutionized retail.
Bah humbug. It just ain’t so. There’s absolutely nothing special about Apple’s retail stores other than they’re functional, sell plenty of Apple products, and are a convenient place to get service. How is that a revolution?
Think about it. Customer service centers have been in existence at the retail level for many, many decades. So have product display tables. There’s no Apple inspired innovation there.
Glass storefront? Gimme a break. Apple didn’t invent large sheets of glass, though the company has made extensive use of the material as a distinct storefront. But glass has been in front of stores for a long, long time.
Apple has done a good job of getting retail employees out from behind a counter and in front of a customer, but that’s hardly revolutionary. Neither is the fact that store employees don’t work on commission, or wear colorful t-shirts.
Apple has pushed for an easier transaction method with roving, wireless charge card readers, but it took the company a long time to do what’s been done elsewhere in the world for years.
Remember, Apple’s move to open retail stores was an act of calculated desperation. The typical computer retail store did a lousy job showcasing and servicing their products, and Apple’s wares were simply lost in the mix. Apple is about control, and running your own retail stores provided the company with the ultimate retail experience– controlled.
If the Genius Bar, Product Display Tables, Glass Storefront, and Employees were the secret sauce to Apple’s successful taste, why haven’t the Microsoft Stores done well? They copy Apple’s design and layout at every turn, yet the only way Microsoft can get customers in the door is by giving away free concert tickets.
Apple hasn’t revolutionized the retail store experience. All they’ve done is make it better, eased somewhat by selling gadgets to the masses (stores did much better after the iPod and iPhone came along) in a clean, neat, uncluttered environment– on products with larger than normal margins.