Apple’s retail leader, Angela Ahrendts, plans to step down, take a vacation, and count some money from stock options. By most measures, Apple Stores are a huge success. In fact, that’s the only real problem. Success. How can Apple fix that problem?
Less Is Not More
I grew up in the Volkswagen Beetle age. Small is beautiful. Less is more. That mantra does not apply to Apple Stores. We can grumble all day about specific, personal issues with Apple Stores but they are a huge money maker for Apple, and a huge differentiator between the iPhone maker and absolutely every other technology gadget maker.
What to do? What to do?
Ben Lovejoy says, “Build more stores.” His colleague, Michael Steeber, says, “No.”
What should Apple do?
After all, of the just over 500 Apple Stores on planet earth, about half are in the U.S. and that means Macs, iPhones, and iPads are sold in far more retail locations than Apple’s, so what’s the problem?
Apple’s retail success has to do with stores, product, support, and employees. Generally speaking, the customer experience is just better at an Apple Store than it is at Best Buy or Target or wherever else you can find that pretty Apple logo. Best Buy might have discounts, but an Apple Store Genius knows what he’s talking about, and if not, there’s one nearby that does.
Those 500 or so retail stores are crowded because Apple has a billion customers who need support or who want to learn about how to use technology. You won’t get that at Target or Best Buy. It’s the crowds and waiting time– two hallmarks of success– that become Apple Stores’ biggest problem.
How do you fix it?
More stores. More retail people. More support personnel.
A more efficient system of handling customers. Arguably, Apple does a better job of that than any competitor (except maybe a Microsoft store; there’s no crowd there, and not too many stores anyway). Let’s think of Apple’s issue as math. More stores. Larger stores. And that means more people to handle the crowds.
What’s the alternative?
Change. Or no change. I pick change.