As far back as I can remember, back to Macs in the last century, Apple has been all about the user experience. In the spring of 2001 Apple launched a much criticized weapon that extends the user experience to encompass the customer experience.
Nearly 15 years later Apple has over 400 retail stores scattered around the world (265 in the U.S. alone), and they all have a few things in common which help to set the customer experience apart from any Apple competitor.
What About Microsoft?
Please. Don’t get me started. Microsoft’s methodology for Research and Development over the years mimics Samsung. In other words, copy whatever Apple is doing at the moment. That explains why the mostly empty Microsoft Windows Stores are in malls a few doors from Apple Stores.
Sidebar: Did you notice that Microsoft lost money in the most recent quarter, and the stock is about where it was a few weeks ago? Apple posted record revenue and profits and the stock dropped. And, did you notice that Apple admitted it made more in revenue in less than three months of Watch sales than Microsoft did on the highly touted Surface PC notebook-tablet hybrids in the entire quarter? True that.
Alright, back to Apple’s uncopyable secret weapon. It’s the Apple Store retail experience. Think about what you want when you go shopping for a computer, tablet, smartphone, and now a smartwatch? You want selection and accessories. You want a friendly, no-pressure atmosphere. You want someone to help you learn either before or after you buy a product. And you want a place to go for support and service.
Name a competitor to Apple’s main product lines that has all you’ll find in an Apple Store in as many places as the stores are located?
Apple’s executives were laughed at back in 2001 when the company announced the retail store project. Since then, Apple Stores have expanded to dozens of countries, more than 400 stores total, and they’re all packed with customers; stores are profitable, and comfortable. The only negative about the Stores are that you’ll pay full retail price for nearly everything, and the Yogi Berra-ism of ‘Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded‘ applies. Retail honcho Angela Ahrendts is working to make the retail experience more pleasant, so Apple is doing away with the long lines of customers waiting and hoping to buy a new product, to replace that experience with queues of people about to walk out with a new product.
Product marketing is often about key points of differentiation, and Apple’s ownership of the premium end of the product spectrum make it particularly difficult for a competitor to recreate what Apple does in the retail environment without spending tens of billions to copy Apple’s successful formula. Even Microsoft, a company with tens of billions to spend, hasn’t been able to generate a groundswell of love and affection in its stores because people do not associate Windows and PCs with love and affection. iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Watch? Much loved, folks. Easy to view and try and buy and get fixed.
Copy that, Microsoft? I don’t think so.