A 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display can be more expensive than an Hermès bag, so why shouldn’t stepping into an Apple Store replicate the same luxury retail experience?
That’s the one question Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior VP of retail, is trying to answer. Two years ago, Ahrendts left her gig as Burberry CEO and is now in charge of making the Apple Stores more chic. She instituted private try-on appointments for the higher-end Apple Watches and has been extremely selective as to which third-party accessories hit the floor room. According to The New York Times, this week a few Apple Stores will start selling a $1,990 wireless speaker made by French audio company Devialet. All thanks to Ahrendts.
But why stop there? Here are some more humble suggestions for how Ahrendts can continue fancy-fying the Apple Store.
Make all new product launches appointment-only
For luxury retailers, there’s probably nothing more unsightly than seeing a line of people camping out in front of your store. Yet long lines forming outside the Apple Stores are indicative of the company’s blockbuster product launches. Or they used to be. Now that you can pre-order any Apple product online and get it delivered the day it goes on sale, these lines are not only unnecessary but they actually create a lousy customer experience.
Ahrendts already pushed for people to purchase the Apple Watch online or to schedule an appointment to try one on. Taking it one step further, every new in-store product purchase, try-on or pickup should require an appointment, and there will be limited number of appointment spots per day to avoid crowds. There is no reason why the Apple Store should ever resemble the opening of the new Star Wars at your local movie theater. And if your customers can’t figure out how to book an appointment or place an order online, then you probably don’t want them walking around with your products in the first place.
Switch out the maple wood display tables
Don’t get me wrong: the display tables found in every Apple Store are not cheap. They are made from solid maple wood by Fetzer Woodworking and can cost several thousand dollars. But there is only so much you can do with pale, plain maple. If Apple were to switch out the maple for a type of wood that’s a cut above—like cherry, oak or walnut—the tables would bring richer color and warmth to the Apple Store, making them more inviting.
Not only that, but a premium type of wood is easier to carve into curves and rounded edges, opening up the possibilities of creating a more interesting and fluid floorspace. After all, the iPhone has rounded edges, so why shouldn’t the display tables at the Apple Store? Furthermore, Apple should start moving beyond simply showcasing devices on traditional tables. For example, take a look above at the display of the $1,990 Devialet speaker in its Paris store. It wouldn’t look as good (or be as easy to build) if it were made out of maple wood.
Get a fashion designer to create a new Genius look
Ahrendts used to be the CEO of Burberry, so we’re surprised she hasn’t already replaced those tired old T-shirts every Apple Store employee has to wear. We know it must be incredibly difficult to create a “uniform” that will look good on thousands of employees all over the world, but certainly Apple can do better than a plain blue T-shirt. Even that particular shade of blue is boring.
How about recruiting an up-and-coming fashion designer to create a new Genius look by redesigning the T-shirt and name tag? It can still be casual, but maybe with a breast pocket for the Apple Pencil? Made from material that can be used to wipe computer and iPhone screens? Or something in the “athleisure” style to match the Apple Watch Sport?
Start integrating multimedia and technology
During Ahrendts’s tenure at Burberry, the fashion brand’s retail location in London became one of the most technologically advanced stores in the world. It had 100 screens and 500 speakers that were synchronized to create “disruptive digital takeovers.”
The London Burberry store also had RFID chips woven into the clothes to trigger multimedia elements whenever shoppers picked them up. For example, whenever a customer walked by a mirror with a certain garment, the mirror would turn into screen depicting video of that garment during a runway fashion show. And that’s what Ahrendts did for a clothing company, so we’re not entirely sure why she hasn’t brought some of those elements to the retail spaces of a tech company like Apple.
Stop selling basic accessories separately
You would never be asked to pay for an additional resort fee at the Four Seasons, so why is Apple nickel-and-diming its customers? The latest and most egregious example of this is Apple selling an Apple TV Remote Loop separately. Yep, the most innovative tech company in the world is now selling a plastic wrist strap for $13.
If Apple were truly a luxury company, every iPhone could come with a case and Lighting connectors would have a lifetime warranty. People pay a premium for luxury products because they often are all inclusive of these types of incidentals. Just think, how silly would it be be to see an ad for an Hermès bag that said the shoulder strap was sold separately.