It’s everywhere these days, this concept that we should all try to build stores to be more like the Apple stores. Once the hyperbole is stripped away, there is real meaning behind this desire. Here’s what people actually mean:
1) They want to make enormous amounts of money.
Apple stores rake it in big time. The average mall store does around $300 per square foot; Best Buy pulls in $880. The average Apple Store? $4,406 per square foot annually, according to the Wall Street Journal. (Or over $6,000 if you count iTunes.) In 2011, says the New York times, Apple stores pulled in more dollars for size than any other US-based retailer – and nearly double the amount of Tiffany’s, the second on the list. The dollar numbers are shorthand for just how well the formula works.
2) They want to figure out the showrooming business model.
From Bonobos Guideshops to mobile apps focusing on the in-store experience, smart businesses know that showrooming isn’t something to be afraid of; it’s something to embrace. To have an inventory filled only with samples (or even only with digital access) is quickly becoming a viable model. Between the cost savings and the increased possibilities for SKU’s, this model matters. There’s no hard sell in an Apple store, ever. Feel free to test out the merchandise – unlike the famous scene from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, they are never closing a sale.
3) They want their store to be a destination.
Any shopper should be able to be quickly in-and-out of a store if they want to. Using your Apple Store app, you can walk out with merchandise in your pocket without ever having to talk to a person. But to be a destination, you have to build a place where people want to hang out. Using sexy, high-profile locations, striking architecture and glossy lighting (not to mention free computer and internet access), these stores are genuine tourist destinations. My daughter and her friends love visiting the 5th Avenue Apple Store after school – hip New York City teenagers hanging out in a computer store. Can you imagine this happening 10 or 20 years ago?
4) They want to be “cool.”
It’s ephemeral, this idea of being cool – and Apple’s “cool” won’t stay forever (some people see it waning already). But for now, they’re a powerful and aspirational brand that many want align themselves with. (This goes for consumers and retailers alike, hence this article). Apple’s stores do a phenomenal job of promoting & differentiating the brand, as well as allowing exciting touch points for customers.
5) They want the store to be connected.
Connected from a technology perspective, of course (that free computer use, wifi, and app), but also within a community. The biggest stores have theaters where they offer free classes and community events. My friend Kelly Hoey from Women Innovate Mobile runs events at Apple Stores globally, called Meet the Innovators. People outside of those cities can watch the events on iTunes (I participated in one about the future of ecommerce; another fantastic one was about about digital life featuring our mobile + emerging platforms guru, Josh Clark). Users can sign up for one-on-one classes about how to use the products or they can chat with the passionate salespeople about apps – Apple stores are always bustling. If you have stores, do you hold special events in them? Why on earth not?
6) They take the anxiety out while leaving the mystique in.
There’s no doubt about it: Apple’s Genius bars are a stroke of genius. Computers are expensive, complicated, are prone to breaking down frequently, and need manual updates. Apple has taken a scary purchase and instilled it with a sense of comfort. Being able to take your precious device (your whole life is on there!) in your own hands and talk to an actual human face-to-face about it is priceless.
7) They are multi-generational.
Every single time I’m in an Apple Store in any city, it is full of people from every age and every walk of life. Small children know exactly where to run to to start playing games. Older generations can find patient teachers. Apple Stores are exciting, but they’re never intimidating. Anyone can use a computer for free, and if it suits a customer’s fancy, they can walk out with a $5,000 machine. It’s become a veritable rite of passage for affluent parents to take their teenagers to the Apple Store before they drop them off at college. There isn’t a retailer out there who doesn’t want to access customers younger and keep them longer.
As our own Josh Clark says,
” A lot of people are trying to do it but failing. Even in the same category: Microsoft, Sony, etc. They build stores that look like Apple’s but somehow don’t feel like them. So it’s not just the store experience (the design, the layout, the customer service). It’s the brand experience. And Apple figured out how to extend its brand into the physical world in a really effective way.”
When the formula is broken down into these pieces, it starts to become clear how we can emulate the positive attributes of the Apple Store experience. It’s not about trying to be more like Apple, it’s about being more like your own brand – in a way that’s exciting, accessible, and future savvy.
Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.