Could your business be like an Apple Store?

Applestore_drewmclellan Walk into any mall in the world and I'm willing to bet that the most crowded store will always be the Apple Store. 

I snapped this photo a couple weeks ago.  It was around 6 in the evening.  But it doesn't matter.  The Apple Store looks like this morning, noon and night.

I've visited Apple Stores all over the US and it's always the same story.  Jam packed, people playing with iPads, iPods, iPhones…oh yeah, and their rockin' computers.

Who wouldn't want their customers to flock into their place of business and just want to hang out, trying new products, showing their friends and buying a ton of stuff.  (over 3 million iPads sold in the first 80 days).

So…what can we learn from Apple and how can we apply it to our business?

Let them touch the stuff:  The Apple Store is basically a huge demo room.  You can check out any item, you aren't rushed away when you're updating your Facebook status or creating a new tune on Garage Band.  They want you to get the feel of their wares.

Nothing sells like sampling.  If I can try it and like it… I can pretty quickly convince myself I need it. 

Don't hide behind the counter:  Look at the picture.  Do you see all the blue shirts?  Those are Apple employess…ready to show you how something works, answer your questions or just brag on the product. 

If you're sitting behind your desk, waiting for customers to come to you — get off your lazy rear and go to where the people are. 

Think about my convenience, not yours:  You don't stand in line to buy something in the Apple Store.  The blue shirt who was answering your questions can also ring up your order.  They have little scanner/credit card readers on their belt.  Voila…they can print or e-mail you the receipt.  Need a bag?  No worries, there are bag dispensers underneath the tables throughout the store.

What are you doing because it's how everyone else in the industry does it that way?  What if you looked at it from your customer's perspective.  How could you re-design it with them in mind?

Don't hire someone because they're breathing:  At the Apple Store, the employees LOVE what they sell.  They're aren't clerks or sales people.  They are zealots.  And that's infectious and effective. 

Hire zealots…and set them loose on your customers.

We all have the opportunity to create an Apple-like experience.  The question is — will you?

Other than Apple, where have you seen these techniques be employed?

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17 comments on “Could your business be like an Apple Store?

  1. Peter Tubbs says:

    Few firms can hire zealots because few firms earn zealots in the first place.

    Designing the customer experience for maximum effect is highly underrated, probably because it is hard to calculate the ROI.

  2. Lauren August says:

    I would disagree with the comment above “Few firms can hire zealots because few firms earn zealots in the first place”. While each “firm” or company may not have the number of zealots that Apple does, there are always fans/clients/zealots. Whether it is the pretzel shop in the mall, or an garbage company, there is someone out there who is passionate about the product, otherwise they wouldn’t still be in business.

    It may not be easy (i.e. not everyone is crazy about garbage), but it is still imperative to know your target audience, and hire your biggest fans to properly pass along that same passion to other clients.

  3. Chris Jones says:

    A couple months ago I was in Arizona at the Microsoft store in Scottsdale helping my sister look at laptops and I was surprised how similar it was to the Apple stores. All of the employees were extremely knowledgeable of their products and they had everything on display for the customers to sample. Granted, I don’t think it was as “hip” or as contemporary as the Apple store is, but it was a somewhat comparable experience. However, I feel that the experience I had at the Microsoft store was in thanks to Apple. Microsoft constantly has to compete with Apple with all of their products, and now they are competing with Apple on the customer experience and intangibles. But in the end, we bought a Dell.

    PS: None of the employees looked as stiff and boring as they are depicted on the Apple commercial.

  4. Allan says:

    Yes, I think that the main concept – is to be honest with customers.

    I mean that Apple is sure in products and that’s why it shows it to everyone for free.

    And so people can just go the store and test!!!

    Very simple and very powerful!!!

  5. Helen says:

    Great share, Drew!

    It’s interesting but the situation outside United States can be another. I spend a lot of time in Russia (Moscow, Saint-Petersburg). And there are a lof Apple stores without cutomers.

    I don’t know why…

  6. Brett Duncan says:

    I think another big lesson is not to build too many damn stores. I live in DFW, the land of fake cowboys and malls, and you could probably make a strong case for adding at least 5 more Apple stores in the area.

    But they don’t. But people still come. And the store is still crowded. It creates scarcity while also allowing them to be picky with who they hire.


  7. Awesome points my brother… along the same lines, I recently added to the home page of our cite ( the line…

    “Check us out… kick our tires. We won’t mind… in fact we encourage it.”

    Course it also helps to have a good product, too!

    BTW, ready for my next Friday Guest Blogger if you still do that… ???

    Shoot me an email…

    Thanks brother and have a great weekend,
    Steve O

  8. Peter Tubbs says:

    I was probably too glib in my comment above.

    Absolutely, every product or service is going to have its fans. The problem will come in hiring: your pool may be too small!

    I see too many companies focus on being just a tiny bit different from the competition, assuming that their product is just another commodity. Few are brave enough to differentiate themselves so dramatically that 90% of consumers will never consider buying from them, but the 10% who do will be obsessive about it.

  9. Brian Cooper says:

    I think apple have nailed the “sell”, and it obviously works extremely well for them. Many years ago I owned a fresh seafood business, when I first purchased it, it really was not working at it’s full potential. I made a point from day one to let people try the product before they purchased, prawns, oysters, etc. I had faith in my product and the customers therefore had faith in me. After a couple of years I sold the business for much more than I had paid for it. People love free stuff, they also love customer service.

  10. Martin says:

    Really,I would like to run this type business,All right, you’ve inspired me to try this.

  11. chandani says:

    Very well written Drew, And agree with you whenever I am in apple store I am never disappointed by their customer service. Recently my mac quit working. Just a call and they booked appointment to see tech in store. And he really spent time explaining and make sure everything worked perfectly before I left the store. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another product from apple.
    The customer experience inside store not only before buying the product but also the service provided afterward is really important.

  12. Tracy G. says:

    It’s great that Apple has created such a hands-on, learn and play environment for their customers. It’s not exactly something that you see very often, especially in a world where so many retailers have a “you break it, you buy it” attitude.

  13. You’re not kidding about Apple’s retail employees being zealots. Anyone who’s ever applied for a job there knows the sort of person they’re looking for.

  14. Jake says:

    This is a great and very inspiring point to raise – however, trying to apply this to an online business or B2B business could be quite difficult.

  15. amazing when something is right it sound so simple. Well this sound simple and simplicity is apple’s mo if you ask me. They make everything intuitive and fun and to customers the gadgets are just and extension and not just an onject

  16. The Apple Store certainly have the customer buying ‘experience’ down to an art. Like you say, the freedom to be able to fully test and trial all of their products (with an expert nearby ready to answer all of your questions) without being ‘hassled’ is a rarity. The ease of the purchasing process adds to the ‘experience’.

    Making the whole buying process as simple and enjoyable as possible is where Apple excel.

    I think MINI showrooms do pretty well at this too, (although the nature of car sales means it is a harder overall sell) the ‘experience’ of the buying process is made fun through their interior design ideas and the general atmosphere of the place. It doesn’t feel like a normal car showroom but rather more like a showcase of their products which you are free to browse and trial at your own pace.

    Great post 🙂

  17. Nicola,

    I think the notion of “free to browse in a hands on environment” is a big part of the Apple Store’s appeal. Their confidence that once you touch and experience an iPad, iPod etc. is very apparent.

    Which of course, makes you want one all the more!


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