Apple Stores Hit the Heights in Retail: 10 Reasons Why

Apple Stores Hit the Heights in Retail: 10 Reasons Why
It All Starts With the Store's Exterior Design
It Then Moves to the Store's Interior Design
There's Something to Be Said for the Freedom to Browse
The Products Tend to Sell Themselves
Apple's Genius Bar Is Genius
The Classes Are Huge
There Was Strong Leadership—for a Time
The Customer Service Reps Are Actually Knowledgeable
Apple Likes to Promote the Air of Spectacle at Its Stores
It Aims to Stay Ahead—Not Behind—the Curve
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Apple Stores Hit the Heights in Retail: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger

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It All Starts With the Store's Exterior Design

Apple's architectural aesthetic is impressive, if nothing else. The company's store designs feature everything from glass cubes to integration with local architecture in Paris. Apple's marketplaces are designed to hit customers over the head and get them to feel that they're entering a unique experience in retail. Whether Apple has achieved that goal, however, might be up to individual customers.

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It Then Moves to the Store's Interior Design

For all the design ideas in the Apple store exteriors, the company has stuck to tried-and-true ideas for the interior. All Apple stores look about the same with lined-up tables, ample lighting and smart placement for products. The stores also include nearly identical Genius Bar placement, with roving sales reps ready to check customers out. While the interior in Apple's retail stores might not match the exterior, it's functional and helps encourage people to buy more products.

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There's Something to Be Said for the Freedom to Browse

Apple's stores allow people to access its computers and do what they want, when they want. So, if folks come into the store to check their email, see how their fantasy football team is doing, or check the weather and then leave, that's fine. Apple was smart to realize that even if some people aren't customers today, they might be ones tomorrow if they like what they've seen.

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The Products Tend to Sell Themselves

Apple has made its products stand front and center in the company's stores. Rather than offer a crowded space for people to peruse products, Apple stores have several lines of tables featuring the company's latest products. That allows consumers to truly examine devices without being rushed. As Apple's retail revenues have proven, that model works quite well.

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Apple's Genius Bar Is Genius

Apple's Genius Bar is arguably one of the secret weapons that make the retail experience so appealing to customers. Apple's geniuses actually know what they're doing and getting an appointment is as easy as picking a time slot online. From simple screen cracks to major issues, the Genius Bar staff usually can handle just about any task.

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The Classes Are Huge

When Steve Jobs hatched his vision for Apple stores, he realized that not everyone would be comfortable using a Mac. This was, after all, a time when he was trying to rebuild the company after it had hit rock bottom. So, he set up classes that have become a huge hit in the retail world. Customers can learn everything, from how to set up a Mac to using their hardware for video editing. It's a feature that makes people want to spend more time in an Apple store and eventually buy more of the company's products.

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There Was Strong Leadership—for a Time

The Apple retail stores are successful today because of the vision and leadership Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and former retail exec Ron Johnson brought to the outlets. However, it's an open question whether Apple's retail stores can hold their reputation for quality and success since there has been a management vacuum at the top. John Browett, for example, was ousted after only several months on the job. Still, the long tail of leadership from Jobs and Johnson is carrying the stores. Whether that'll last a long time remains to be seen.

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The Customer Service Reps Are Actually Knowledgeable

I can't count the number of times I've been to a Best Buy or Radio Shack and found that the store reps are giving incorrect information to customers. (Nope, you really don't need that $100 High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable, despite what the representative says.) In the Apple Store, I've come across more knowledgeable folks than not. Part of that is Apple's extensive training program. But it's also that the company has been able to recruit people who are already knowledgeable about Apple products and seem to truly care about them. It's a model that works quite well.

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Apple Likes to Promote the Air of Spectacle at Its Stores

Everything, from going into an Apple Store to standing in line for one of the company's anticipated products, becomes a bit of a spectacle. Each year, when the iPhone launches, for example, people line up at the Apple Store to be the first group to get the device. Apple's store reps are there to cheer and clap as they make their purchases. While this somewhat artificial excitement can be rather annoying, the spectacle plays into Apple's desire to create a shopping "experience" at its stores.

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It Aims to Stay Ahead—Not Behind—the Curve

The retail space is now crowded with companies that want to bring an Apple-like feel to their stores. Best Buy is perhaps the best example, but Microsoft's retail stores have also taken some cues from Apple. What sets the iPad maker's stores apart is that it doesn't need to play catch-up. For example, in some Apple Stores, customers who buy certain products can check themselves out, rather than wait for a store rep. Call it risky or call it intelligent. If nothing else, it's innovative. And Apple deserves some credit for that.

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