Let’s learn more about Apple’s retail success

I’ve been intrigued by Apple’s success in retail. Success is an understatement when you look at the numbers, but what can the independent retailer learn from Apple. . I read an article earlier this week written by Steve Chazin, VP of Sales Force.com. which provided some additional insights into how Apple approaches retail.

They opened their first store ten years ago in the face of both Gateway Computers and Comp USA failing in their attempt to sell computers directly to consumers. An additional challenge was that they only had four products to sell. Once Steve Jobs had made the committment to open retail stores he did extensive research to determine the characteristics of successful retailers. His mantra was, “Good artists borrow. Great artists copy.” He knew to be successful he had to attract PC users.  His approach was to make complex things easy and provide an in-store GURU station to provide technical support and answer any questions.  He knew he had to remove the fear and intimidation factor that consumers have when buying technology. Consider this, at the time Napster was offering music downloads for free but Itunes was easier to use.

His design team was tasked to think differently and approach retail as creating an experience rather than selling product. Think Starbucks selling $5 coffee or are thy selling an experience. Apple employees became trusted advisors to their customers. Apple enjoys the lowest employee turnover rate among major retailers. They tried to create policies that are customer friendly. An example is a 14 day no questions asked return policy. In his book “The Ultimate Question” Fred Reicheld describes loyal customers as Net Promoters (NP) of your business. They are your advocates who promote your business to other people. The Apple loyal customers have taken this to another level they are evangelists to the Apple brand.

 What can the average retailer learn from Apple’s success. I sure there’s a lot but here are few of my thoughts on some things you should consider:

  • Visit an Apple store for a few hours to see how they approach customers.
  • Understand the value of loyal employees and how they create customer loyalty.
  • Treat your best customers to a surprise gift or event to acknowledge their importance in building your brand.
  • Examine your sales policies and remove any that aren’t customer friendly. If in doubt ask you employees and loyal customers for their input.
  • Think how you might create an experience in your store rather than just sell product