While spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Houston with family, I got an email from Apple announcing their Black Friday sale featuring a rare discount plus free shipping for the iPad. I was weighing the convenience of ordering online vs. dealing with the biggest crowd of the year at the mall. My sister, Misty, suggested the mall route would be painless based on her own experience buying an iPad.
I headed to the mall and got to see exactly why Apple is so successful, despite the fact they usually charge full retail and have a lot of competition.
Thinking Outside the Box Store
Whomever designed Apple’s retail operation obviously threw out the playbook on how a retail electronics store should be run. The stores are very efficient.
As I’d done a lot of research online, I walked into the store knowing exactly what I wanted. The first thing I noticed is a LOT of staff on the floor. There were two employees handing out an ad for the Black Friday sale to everyone that walked in the door. Even though it was a one-day sale, the marketing piece well designed and printed on stock similar to a restaurant menu.
The store had a lot of customers but it took me all of ten seconds to find someone help and less than ten minutes later, I was on my way back to my car with an iPad in my hand and a big grin on my face. So, how’d they do it?
The Apple Store’s Keys to Success
Eliminate the Checkout Counter: Each employee carries an iPhone with an attachment that allows them to scan your credit card and print a receipt, on the spot. They also give you the option of having the receipt emailed to you. Brilliant. In addition to sparing customers the headache of waiting, it also eliminates ‘abandoned shopping carts’ due to long lines at a checkout area.
Keep the Inventory Next to the Display: No waiting while the salesperson disappears into a warehouse or searches for keys to unlock a cabinet.
Well Trained Employees: The salesperson offered to activate my iPad for me, which he told me would only take a few minutes. While activating it, he gave me helpful tips on the iPad and made sure all my questions were answered. Also, the staff seemed well-prepared for the holiday rush, too.
Pre-Charging the Batteries: One of the biggest downers when buying a portable electronics device is having to plug it in for several hours before getting to use it. The iPad was eighty percent charged right out of the box and I didn’t have to charge it for several days.
The Genius Bar: I didn’t take advantage of this one but Apple has specially trained employees ready to answer your questions, show you how to use your gear or repair it on the spot. You can book an appointment in the store or online. Compare that to trying to get a problem solved over the phone by someone in a call center halfway around the world or waiting days for repairs.
Although I know they aren’t perfect, Apple has put a lot of thought into their retail operation and come up with stores that are almost as cool as their products. It’s inspiring me to take a closer look at my business to see where I could be doing things more efficiently and provide better service to my clients. I’m looking closely for areas where I’m doing things a certain way just because that’s the norm.
Could you apply this to your business? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it.