Friday, May 20, 2011
2001-2011, 10 years Apple Stores
When Steve Jobs announced to open Apple Stores the critics were big. Analyst did not see that the stores idea will work out.
Critics were that Apple will have big store filled with products which fit on one big table. 10 years later, Apple has over 300 stores and is still growing.
And within the 10 years the look and feel of the stores did not change. Even the amount of displayed products is not much more. The biggest difference is that there is no red phone behind the genius bar and no cam corders or handhelds because they are replaced with Apple products like iPad and iPhone.
What made the Apple stores so successful?
First of all the design. Going to an Apple store is like going to a Ralph Lauren store. All is very exclusive. White walls open space and each product looks like a painting in a museum. Then there is the genius bar, which got copied by stores like Best Buy etc. However the people behind the genius bar are very knowledgable. And not only them. Every employee in the store knows enough about the products that the customer feels comfortable. Never is anybody left alone.
Another big difference to all other computer stores is, that the consumer can touch and play with the products, they are always on and working. If you go to BestBuy, and you want to test a computer, then either they are password locked because some kid thought it is funny or the computers have no real software on it and if they, the Internet connection is not available, that surfing the internet does not work.
I admit, I seldom buy anything at the Apple store, I usually buy online, but still I go once a month to the store just to see the products and dream about all these new 27inch displays and MacBook Airs I want to have.
And then I look around. Mostly everybody is just browsing through the store and playing or enjoying the Apple products. A few kids are playing games at kids table (which is still there after 10 years). Another handful people are waiting for their call to get their genius bar appointment and then maybe a few at the checkout.
Going to the Apple Store is like making (in the mall) a stop at Starbucks just without the coffee. If you are in the mall, you have to go to the Apple store. Period.
I guess the main reason of the success is, that Apple saw the store concept different than all others before (I think Sony was actually first to do their cool stores). Apple did it like with the computers. Take the dark looking room with some boring background music and one product after the other, and paint it white to get more open space. Throw half of the products out and display only a few, but ensure they work fully. And then replace the boring music with good songs through iTunes. Voila, here is your success.
The Apple employees seem all the ways nice, but returning a product is not as easy as at BestBuy. You have to pay a 10% stocking fee when returning, but mostly they won't replace your broken item, they first try to fix it. If it is not possible, then they replaced it with same model. If you have in times of the iPhone 4 a broken iPhone 3GS and Apple might need to replace, they will do it with a 3GS. This unfortunate but fair.
Apple is changing sometimes something over night in the store. If it is not a new product launch, then for sure they might change the look and feel of the stores.
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