Welcome to the the Ivey HBA Retail Marketing Management blog. Retail marketing is an exciting, dynamic, important, and very visible aspect of the overall field of marketing. Throughout the year, students will be posting comments regarding contemporary retailing issues. Although this is intended to be used by Bus 4411 students, industry marketing professionals are also invited to join in if they like.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Apple Store Experience

As a proud owner of a brand new MacBook I was recently able to experience first-hand what one could call the “Apple Store Experience”. Having never before owned an Apple computer (or any Apple product not called an iPod) and having never even been inside an Apple Retail Store, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into a store that looked nothing like any other retail store I had ever been in. It only took seconds to realize that the store was selling the Apple experience as much as it was selling the product.

After briefly walking around the store and testing out multiple products I had no intention of buying, I switched my focus to the MacBooks. It was at this point that the Apple Store experience really began. I was assisted by an Apple Specialist, a highly knowledgably worker who instead of just explaining the basic components of the MacBook (such as memory details, battery life, etc), showed me how the different features of the MacBook worked. While it may seem like a trivial difference, actually seeing how the computer worked and seeing the differences between a MacBook and a regular PC was immensely helpful to me, as without this tutorial I would have had to waste countless hours figuring out the most basic functions of the MacBook. Even the checkout process is different at the Apple Store. Instead of paying at a cashier as you would at a normal retail store, a Specialist uses a handheld device called the EasyPay to process your order. This enhances the shopping experience as it eliminates the need to wait in line. Small details such as this add to the Apple experience as it makes the customer feel like they are buying a different type of product and that they are buying something more advanced then what you would find at a regular computer store.

Having such a strong focus on the customer’s experience is important to Apple as it allows them to charge premium prices for their goods as well as alleviate any fears customers may have about investing in a product that is often incredibly different from products that they have previously owned. It also strengthens the brand as it makes customers associate the Apple name with high quality service. When the customer remembers the high quality of the customer service they will connect that high quality to the actually Apple product and thus, the perceived quality of the product will be enhanced.

While Apple’s focus on the customer experience has generated much success, Apple is doing what any smart company would do; fight against complacency. Apple has recently announced that they will be reorganizing their stores. Apple is planning to switch their stores’ focus from the hardware to customer education. They are doing this by rearranging the stores so that signs and brochures telling customers “Why You’ll Love a Mac” will be the first thing the customer encounters when he or she walks into the store. Apple does not stop there with its focus on the Apple experience as the next section of the store “will focus on the iLife suite of software applications, and will provide information how they can contribute to a Mac user’s digital lifestyle”. These changes will make buying an Apple product feel more like a lifestyle choice rather then just a simple purchase, a feeling that Apple hopes will lead to greater financial success.

This switch should be especially effective in terms of attracting men to the store. The increased amount of information available will allow men to do more on their own and allow them to shorten the dreaded customer-sales person conversation. This change, as well as the large amount of products that are available to try out, makes the Apple Store a very male-friendly environment. However, women will not feel uncomfortable in the Apple Store, as they will find the strong focus on the shopping experience attractive.

It appears that Apple has found a winning focus. A focus on the customer and how the customer feels when he or she enters the store. With a strong track record and upcoming changes that will only further enhance the Apple shopping experience, it would hardly be a stretch to say the Apple can expect their success to continue in the future.




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