Apple is changing. They are paying loads more taxes in Ireland. The new iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack (or nearly as much excitement as previous iPhone launches). Moreover, the Apple Store is no more!
You read that right. In late August, Apple announced that the word “store” would be removed from the name of its retail locations. Quite frankly, this move is much bigger news for their Customer Experience than the release of the iPhone 7.
The Core of Apple Retail Experience Challenges
Apple is responding to the sentiment that the stores aren’t delivering the same experience they were in the past. Five years ago, going to the Apple store was about playing with new cool stuff. However, with less new stuff to play with in recent years, the store experience had begun to lose its unique quality. Dropping the word store is an effort to regain that excitement in the retail space.
Forbes ran an article that predicted the removal of the word store would help elevate the experience in the retail locations. Led by Blackberry’s former star Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s retail team is honing in on the experience customers have in their brick and mortar locations. The retail team’s focus will be on keeping the retail experience fresh and more like a gathering spot than a traditional “store.”
Furthermore, Ahrendts intends to enhance the employee experience as well because she sees them as the key to keeping the retail experience unique and relevant. She said in the article that she didn’t see the in-store team as retail employees, but instead asexecutives that deliver the products to customers in a wonderful way. To support this effort, Ahrendts said they will be creating a new level of Apple employee at the retail locations called a Technical Expert. Apple describes the new employee as a level between Technical Specialist and Genius.
A Bad Year for the iPhone?
The move to renovate the retail experience is well-timed. Pundits are debating whether the iPhone 7 launch will have the impact the previous launches have had. The main criticism is that the improvements from the iPhone 6 and 6s to the new 7 might not be enough to get people to invest in the new model. Tech Insider went so far as to predict back in July a bad year for the iPhone. Of course, before this year, sales of the iPhone have been excellent with the introduction of the iPhone 6. Consider the following graphic from Statista:
It’s clear from this chart that the iPhone 7 will have its work cut out for it—at least as far as hitting projected growth targets!
Will a Store By Any Other Name Still Be as Neat?
I have always thought of the Apple Store, er, I mean Apple, as a club. When one is shopping for technology, it isn’t the same as shopping for trousers. One doesn’t need to have the same experience at Apple that they do at Macy’s. In fact, this difference in the experience is what has always set Apple apart from the competition, and led to imitation from other world renowned brands.
Removing the word store is more than semantics, however. It’s also psychology. The outcome of Customer Experiences has a lot to do with customer expectations, whether that’s failing them, meeting them or exceeding them. Therefore, how you build expectations and deliver on them is critical to your success. We discuss this more in our new book The Intuitive Customer: 7 Imperatives For Moving Your Customers To The Next Level, Palgrave MacMillan 2016.
For example, when I say store, what do you picture? For me, I see product displays, aisles, sales people and a cash register. Maybe you see a variation on this description, such as mannequins in fashionable outfits or a grocery market lined with specials and end cap displays. My point is not what you picture; it’s that the word causes you to picture anything at all. The word store creates a certain expectation and removing it removes the expectation.
As always, Apple continues to lead the way with excellent ideas on how to improve an already excellent Customer Experience. Subtle cues like removing the word store from your name is a way to build an expectation that you can meet, and as Apple is apt to do, exceed. So, even though the Apple store will be no more, the experience you have there continues to get better and better.
What do you think? Will removing the word store enable Apple to revamp their retail experience effectively?
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
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