Apple retail unveiled its 2.0 retail stores across the US today with a challenge that the rest of the retail world will be hard-pressed to meet. Already the recipient of the the Design of the Decade Award for Biggest Contribution to Brand Growth in 2010, Apple raised the bar with its latest store– positioning it clearly as THE technology leader in retail.
Apple reached into its own Cupertino design and development team to create a store that reinforces all that Apple retail stands for: technology, retail, customer service.
Gone are the paper price signs that sat in acrylic sign holders on the tables. Dedicated iPad’s now give customers more information than just price for every important Apple item. The iPads allow customers to interact and discover how the device they are considering can help them achieve their goals, compare products side by side and alert store associates that they would like help. Associates carry iphones with an “iQueue” app that alerts them to which specific location in the store has a waiting customer. The iPads are location specific and accessories that are connected to the device (like the Dr Dre Beats headphones) have their information included on that location’s iPad. Apple has created an acrylic case to hold the iPad, a proprietary cabling system and has locked down the devices preventing users from access the home or power buttons and any other applications on the device. The iPad does have secret menu items for associates that contain location-specifc planogram information for merchandising, for example. New acrylic category signs sit mid-table to help customers locate their desired
Behind the scenes, the rumored RetailMe app helps store management run and track the store performance in near-real time and provides sales and operational assistance to associates throughout the store.
The genius of Apple shines through the strategy: get customers comfortable with interacting with the devices in the store. Let them experience first-hand how intuitive the products are and set the standard high for the competition. Oh yeah, and make store associates more productive by directing them directly to customers looking for help.
Retail watchers (like yours truly) have been waiting to see how Apple would respond to the obvious copycat Microsoft store now open in eleven locations. Aside from a video wall wrapping the store, Microsoft retail locations could not be more “me too.” Check out this picture from their archives to see what I mean.
Ron Johnson, Jony Ive and the others involved have let Apple products speak for themselves throughout the new 2.0 prototype. The timing of Apple Store 2.0 coincided with Apple Retail’s 10 year anniversary. In typical Apple retail fashion, the new facelift happened overnight on
Saturday May 21 concurrently across the country to greet the customers on Sunday, May 22. Part of Apple’s cache is its ability to execute in secret and unveil its latest and greatest everywhere at once. Treating the stores like another great product debut continues to reinforce how well Apple speaks directly to its customers.
Other retailers put test stores into the market for months at a time, host press events to visit new prototypes and sell their vision on Wall Street months in advance of an actual conversion. Without a word, Apple has opened up our eyes to what technology can mean for retail in the most significant way I have ever seen.
Thank you, Apple. You give me hope for brick and mortar retail.