Ron Johnson, the architect behind the Apple Retail Stores, has moved on to be CEO of JC Penney. But, he still remembers the lessons he learned while at Apple.
Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Johnson reflects on what makes the Apple Store unique:
People come to the Apple Store for the experience — and they're willing to pay a premium for that. There are lots of components to that experience, but maybe the most important — and this is something that can translate to any retailer — is that the staff isn't focused on selling stuff, it's focused on building relationships and trying to make people's lives better. That may sound hokey, but it's true. The staff is exceptionally well trained, and they're not on commission, so it makes no difference to them if they sell you an expensive new computer or help you make your old one run better so you're happy with it. Their job is to figure out what you need and help you get it, even if it's a product Apple doesn't carry. Compare that with other retailers where the emphasis is on cross-selling and upselling and, basically, encouraging customers to buy more, even if they don't want or need it. That doesn't enrich their lives, and it doesn't deepen the retailer's relationship with them. It just makes their wallets lighter.
Perhaps as a hint toward the direction he intends to take JC Penney, Johnson ends by noting that "the retailers that win the future are the ones that start from scratch and figure out how to create fundamentally new types of value for customers."
Top Rated Comments
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At Apple, it is great. They don't pressure you into anything. If you want something, they give it to you. If you don't want something, they don't heckle you 18 times before they get the picture....
They must be doing something right, and that includes probably more than just having good products.
For everyone complaining about getting cross-sold AppleCare, there's somebody else raving about how he or she just picked up a second (or third) MacBook "with no questions asked" I'm personally not a big fan of any "extended warranty" program - but they do serve to give people who need it some sort of peace of mind. Apple would be remiss if they didn't have store employees at least mention it. There is a definite line between explaining a products' features, and badgering a customer - and I think in most cases Apple Store employees stay on the right side of it.
I rarely pass an Apple Store without at least ducking inside, even if I've no intention of buying anything. I'm not ashamed to say that I frequently use the in-store wi-fi to send e-mails, or use one of the display units to browse the web. I'm sure *some* people take advantage of Apple's policy - but they are far outweighed by the positive relationship it builds with people.
One thing I've noticed about Apple Stores: There always seems to be a positive energy going on. On a Tuesday morning, in the middle of a recession, the store is filled with people tapping away at iMacs and iPads, grooving to the iPods and snapping pictures with the iPhones.
I can't imagine Microsoft, let alone Google or Samsung, being able to pull off that kind of trick. Even if they hired Jonny Ive to design their products, they'd still find a way to dork up the retail experience.