Apple, the most successful retailer on the planet, recently announced they would begin "unchaining" all products in their stores.
Those cumbersome and frustrating security tethers will soon be a thing of the past.
Apple wants customers to be able to get a natural feel for their products. Hold them, play with them, even put them in your pocket to see how it feels in your skinny jeans.
True, this technically means that anyone can now walk out of their stores with a brand new iPhone in hand, but Apple has many other security measures in place to keep that from happening.
And, they're willing to accept the new risk in exchange for the greater good of their customers.
It is yet another reminder that Apple is still the king of retail, genuine trailblazers in an industry where many traditional retailers are struggling to survive.
If you're a retailer, or a business owner of any kind for that matter, you should be learning from Apple. It's that simple.
4 Ways You Should Be Imitating Apple in Your Own Business
1. Selling experiences, not products
Apple products can be bought pretty much anywhere. Yet, time and time again, people return to the Apple store. Why?
Ron Johnson, the man responsible for building Apple's retail strategy puts it perfectly:
These Apple stores are like magnets for people. If you really look at what happens at an Apple store, it's connections happening. It's a genius with a person trying to solve a problem. It's someone getting personal training. It's someone getting their products set up before they leave the store. It's someone learning about something that might change their life.
You can buy an iPhone at most major retailers, but you can only get this experience at an Apple store.
What experience are you offering to your customers? If you sell the same product as so many others, what reason will you give customers to come see you?
It's not complicated. Connections, solutions, advice, help, humans.
2. Inspiring and motivating team members
Motivating your team to succeed is an important part of any business. After all, without your employees, what do you have?
Apple inspires a positive mindset from the very beginning, before a candidate is even hired, in fact.
Here is Apple's official description for a position in their retail store:
As a Specialist, you’re the essence of a customer’s experience at the Apple Retail Store. You enrich people’s lives through meaningful dialogue about the coolest products on earth. You earn trust by recommending solutions that do more than meet people’s needs—they inspire their hopes and dreams. And you thrill customers by consistently finding ways to make their ownership experience better than ever.
"Enrich", "trust", "inspire", "thrill"...
Have you seen any other retailers describe their sales positions like this?
Apple doesn't want their employees to feel like mere sales reps, pushers and peddlers of expensive toys that people may not really need.
They want their workers to feel like they are a part of something bigger. A member of an exclusive team providing memorable experiences to fellow human beings. An expert willing to share their extensive knowledge with the world. A "Specialist".
How do you inspire your workers? What motivates them to be their best? Do they feel like they are part of a team, or mere employees?
3. Eliminating buying obstacles
Walking into an Apple store is unlike any other retail experience.
Apple takes a minimalistic approach to the extreme.
There are no cash registers, product shelves, or signs. No distractions. Just tables upon tables of Apple products on display and a sea of Apple "Specialists" to interact with.
And those Specialists never need to leave your side, either. If you decide to buy something, they can process your payment right there with their mobile device. If you have a question about inventory availability, they send a quick message to the "runners" in the back, and they bring it out to you.
There's no "I'll be right back", or "let me check for you", or "one second, just need to take this phone call". All scenarios where you could potentially become impatient and leave the store have been eliminated.
When's the last time you took a good, hard look at your customer's purchase experience? How many buying obstacles can be eliminated?
The path from "Hello, how can I help you?" to a customer making a purchase needs to be simple and painless. Don't complicate it.
4. Always move forward
Apple has never been one to rest on its laurels. For as much flack as it gets for confusing price gouging with "courage", there's no denying that it continues to push barriers and innovate in retail.
When Apple makes a move, others quickly follow suit. It's no secret that Microsoft's recent retail store offerings are a near identical ripoff of Apple's, while Google plans to expand their traditional retail offerings as well.
Some upcoming Apple stores in San Francisco are testing the concept of building a community space for customers, rather than just another store.
Massive glass walls, natural lighting, outdoor plazas, and even indoor trees are being used to make Apple stores as iconic and community-oriented as your local library.
Are your business' strategies modern and up-to-date? Will your customers see you as progressive and forward-thinking? Are you still using Windows XP and Internet Explorer? (not saying you need to jump to Apple but C'MON)
And there's more where that came from...
Honestly, you could write a book about the brilliant retail strategies of Apple, and many have.
And this is coming from someone who is most definitely not a fan.
But there is no denying that Apple continues to be, and will likely be for sometime, the king of retail. And that really comes down to one simple, easily repeated philosophy.
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.- Steve Jobs
It's clear that this vision continues to live on in the hearts and minds of "Specialists" everywhere.
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