Apple, the last word in service, has more to say.
This story first appeared in the May 24, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
To mark the 10th anniversary of Apple retail stores, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is launching the Apple Store 2.0. Always trying to elevate the customer experience, Apple on Sunday introduced innovations to its 325 Apple Stores worldwide. IPad 2s embedded in Lucite and running a Smart Sign custom app have replaced traditional tabletop signage for price information and product descriptions. The iPads act as mini-kiosks, allowing customers to research and compare iPhone product pricing or the prices of two carrier plans, for example.
The iPads offer a level of interactivity for those who are comfortable with the technology, the company said about the Smart Signs. If needed, customers can call for a specialist by tapping a button. A picture of the nearest specialist will appear, along with the wait time before he or she arrives. Every Apple product in stores is now merchandised with a Smart Sign.
There’s also a new, free personalization service for any iPad, iPhone, iPod or Mac, designed to get customers and their purchases up and running before they leave the store. About 50 percent of Apple customers offered the personal setup have been choosing it since the company began quietly testing it in January. For Mac users, Apple will do e-mail setups, basic data transfer and open iTunes accounts. Apple has dedicated space in all its stores for personal setup. The company believes consumers leave the stores more confident after a personal setup, which eliminates the fear of buying a computer and having no idea what to do next. The setup usually takes about 10 minutes.
Another of Apple’s initiatives, an update to the free Apple Store app for iPhone and iPod Touch, helps the in-store experience go more smoothly. The App Store now offers more than 350,000 apps. As customers walk into an Apple Store, they can tap themselves into the existing line of customers to get help from a staffer or check on workshop schedules. Apple’s by-appointment Genius Bars, where consumers get free answers to technical questions or get their products repaired, were revolutionary when they first opened. But as Apple’s product range and popularity grew, appointments became harder to obtain. Now to ease congestion, shoppers can use the app to sign up for the Genius Bar. The app also keeps track of developments at local Apple stores. Consumers can do other shopping or errands; a push message sent to their iPhone will send an alert when a specialist is ready to see them at the Genius Bar.
Recognizing that much of the public is not tech savvy, Apple is shifting the focus of the in-store classes it has offered for years. While seminars about movie editing and digital photography will still be part of the mix, the new focus is on simple things such as tips and tricks for the iPhone and iPad.