Apple is best known for its “product” culture rather than its “sales”. From the very beginning Steve Jobs has always thought that his products were bought because of their overall quality (and they did) rather than because of the quality of the sales process. Because these products were sold indirectly through a network of resellers, it was obvious that the brand couldn’t closely monitor the quality of the sales process (including the merchandising) which was… uneven…
If you think about it, the solution was obvious (which can be said of all successful ideas afterward…). Build a store like a PRODUCT.
It took not less than seven iterations of a real-size retail store to find the right balance and please Steve Jobs. Find a CEO more obsessed with details… The legend says that at the beginning of Apple he could spend nights at anti-aliasing fonts to make them perfect.
And finally, the same could be said of stores than of other Apple products: they are slick, use high grade materials (crystal stairs, wood, polished steel…), are very standardized and premium looking. When every single product detail, from the packaging to the power supply, the store have benefited the same level of attention. To be brief, it’s a very accurate reflect of the brand. The store is an Apple product in itself! As a product, the retail store receives the same quality controls to make sure the customer experience is on par with the products and it is probably one of the best store experience you can get. It may sounds normal, but try to buy a luxury car (or other luxury goods) and pay attention to the details around you, you will notice it is not always the case.
If we dig more into visual merchandising it sounds obvious that each time you enter an Apple retail store, and even if the architecture of the store is different, the experience is similar and consistent :
Take a look at the products displayed on the tables: product are positioned at measured distances, glued under when necessary with invisible tape. Tables are conceived with places to hide anti-theft devices, products are cleaned, running demos or in good order to let people test them. Everything is measured and monitored.
In one word, everything is in place !
One would probably object that this is not surprising coming from a product company, owning its own stores with mainly its own products (less and less true with the third party ecosystem…) with a limited number of products and very short range.
However, when you look at the execution and add that the secretive (who said paranoid?) culture of the company only allows the staff to put the merchandising in place the day of the product announcement, it sounds obvious that the instore execution is more than closely monitored.
If the retail stores concept is obviously very well-conceived and somehow can be assimilated to a product in itself, the nature of the store -as opposed to manufactured goods- is that its form is changing to the rhythm of product launches, prices evolutions, communication campaigns and subject to the influence of visiting customers.
We won’t treat the service side of the retails store in this article but only focus on merchandising execution.
If you want :
You will sooner or later need to digitize these processes and build checklists to make sure nothing has been forgotten.
Cockpit digital checklist solution has already been deployed on large scale retail companies. For years, it has demonstrated that a well-conceived visual merchandising yet necessary is not sufficient.
Don’t waste all your efforts with a bad instore execution, accompany your team and give them real-time info. Give them friendly tools to make sure nothing is discarded and help them structure their work.
Scale up with Cockpit!