The Genius Behind Apple Stores – How Apple Evolved The Retail Purchasing Process

Way back in 1976 when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created a start-up computer company in a garage called Apple, little did they know how much power that name would command 40 years later. From humble beginnings and near bankruptcy, Apple Inc. has turned itself around and since 2011 has consistently been the world’s most valuable company.

“The chance to make a memory is the essence of brand marketing” – Steve Jobs

Branding That’s Beautifully Simplistic.

One key part of Apple’s success is its branding and advertising. Apple’s branding focuses on lifestyle, innovation and how Apple products puts the power back in the consumer’s hands. Apple’s advertising consistently outlines the clean-cut design of a device as well as the simple features that make them unique. Their TV advertising campaigns are fun and generally feature likeable celebrities using an Apple product. Instead of listing a variety of features, they generally highlight one feature to show the product’s simplicity.

The mere exposure to Apple’s most recent billboard campaign, which feature an everyday user’s Apple iPhone photo with the tagline ‘Shot on an iPhone 6’, encourages me as a consumer to believe, ‘Wow, I could do that if I had a new iPhone’. Mere exposure, as its name suggests, says that, though you might not think the billboard you drive past every day is having a persuasive effect on you, it is. (Iacobucci, D (2014) Marketing Management (MM4) p.18)

 

Their marketing is simple, desirable, conveys the simplicity of their products and of course, the device is always the star. All of these factors help sell aid in selling the products in the pre-purchase phase.

Your Friends Have iPhone’s, Why Don’t You?

Branding and advertising such as this leads consumers to desire Apple products. People want to buy Apple products not only because they design well-made and simple to use devices, but also because they don’t want to be the odd one out. Many people’s friends and peers own Apple devices; therefore, there is a sense of conformity and unity. I relate to this as 95% of my friends own an iPhone. Not only does the non iPhone user experience FOMO (fear of missing out), but they’re also excluded from receiving or sending iMessages, and they endure the hassle of being unable to conveniently borrow a charger, etc. The list goes on, and on. Products and services are not usually purchased simply for their functional values but also, sometimes primarily, for the social and psychological value they convey (Foxall, G. (2014). Consumer Behaviour).

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If you don’t have a device with a piece of fruit branded on the back then, then I hate to break it to you, you’re not one of the cool kids. But, you can always try to blend in…

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs perfectly outlines where Apple consumers fit. It’s the sense of belonging, respect, self-esteem and especially social acceptance that Apple target so well.

 

 

 

 

The Apple Stores

The first Apple Store opened, 19th May, 2001 in Virginia, USA. There are now 479 stores in 18 countries with each of these stores going strength to strength.

The success of Apple Stores are far beyond the success of any other retailer. According to research company eMarketer, Apple’s stores generated sales of (USD)$5,009 per square foot in the 12 months leading up to May 2015, more than any other brand in the U.S. There are many factors that contribute to the success of these stores which start with the fact they are not conventional retail stores.

Try Before You Buy, or Just Try

When walking into an Apple store, one of the first things that is apparent is the space. Large open floor plan, with plenty of light, natural colours and very few actual products on display. An Apple store is designed to provide  a hand’s on experience with their products and see what is so great about them in a casual and carefree environment. There is no pressure to buy as the staff are more than happy for you to sit there for hours using the devices or whatever else you want. (Apple was one of the first retail stores to allow customers to play with computer devices.)

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A typical Apple Store layout

The Paradox of Choice

Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard. (Schwartz, B. The Paradox of Choice). Without being distracted by other brands products like at traditional retailers, Apple products command all of your attention.

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The consideration set found in regular retailers is drastically reduced to one brand in Apple Stores. Because there is only a handful of devices from the one company, the stress of having too many options becomes a non-factor. 

Sensation and Perception

The Apple Store environment is the perfect example of how sensation and perception are perfectly blended. Vision, Touch and Hearing all play a part in getting people to buy a device in store. The large uncluttered benches display each product in front of you to touch, test and see up close how beautiful the designs are.

While this is going on, the other customers and Apple staff are talking about features of the products and how great the devices are. It’s the perfect incubator.

The Geniuses

The Point of Sale is one of the most powerful marketing vehicles available to a retailer. No other marketing vehicle can match its ability to influence consumes at the time of purchase. POS can include visual merchandising and performance of front line employees (Perrey, J. and Spillecke, D. (2013) Retail marketing and branding).

The Apple staff, also referred to as Apple Geniuses, are actually the stars of the purchase process. They are well trained, friendly and genuinely love Apple. They are Apple enthusiasts who make it easy for people to learn about the desired Apple product, and in turn make it easier for the customer to hand over their money. Although Apple Geniuses aren’t in the store to sell stuff, they are there to enrich and create value for the customer. Apple products are sold at a premium price point, however this extra cost is somewhat forgotten because of the experience provided by the staff.

The Purchase Process In One Seamless Transaction

Yukari Iwatani Kane and  Ian Sherr’s article in The Wall Street Journal outlines how the stores are set up and designed to walk customers through each stage of the purchase process. Apple combines each stage of the purchase process in a seamless transaction while also building a customer relationship, leading to very high customer satisfaction. This process starts the moment the customer walks into the store.

Myself and many of my family and friends have made the switch to Apple products and won’t look at going back. They are simple to use, the Apple operating systems are easy to navigate and the after service support for warranty and device issues is second to none.

Apple may not have invented the retail store but they turned traditional retailing on its head with the layout and customer focus of their stores. As many retailers continue to lose money in bricks and mortar stores, Apple seems to be one of the exceptions that other brands continue to try to replicate without success.

 

Posted by Luke O’Meara 216363618

References:

Foxall, G. (2014). Consumer Behaviour (RLE Consumer Behaviour). Florence: Taylor and Francis, p.53.

Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice. New York: Ecco, p.144.

Perrey, J. and Spillecke, D. (2013). Retail marketing and branding. Chichester: Wiley, p.197.

Iacobucci, D (2014) Marketing Management (MM4), South-Western, Cengage Learning p.18

Shot on an iPhone 6 Image: http://www.dailybillboardblog.com/2015/05/more-shot-on-iphone-6-billboards.html

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: (Iacobucci, D (2014) Marketing Management (MM4), South-Western, Cengage Learning p.20

The Purchase Process: (Iacobucci, D (2014) Marketing Management (MM4), South-Western, Cengage Learning p.13

 

 

 

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