Apple recently announced it will be renaming its stores by location (e.g., Apple Fifth Avenue) and that the purpose of its stores will undergo a massive shift. In other words, Apple stores will be redesigned so they are places where consumers hang out with others, seek expertise, attend classes, go to events, and oh, also buy Apple products. Products that undoubtedly will include lots of iPhone 7s, Apple Watch Series 2s and other items introduced with much fanfare at the company’s September 7 event.
In reference to this Apple announcement, Richard Kestenbaum noted in a Forbes article: “Retailers will transform their stores from retail to entertainment. Retailers who can make that transition will cause consumers to have a deeper relationship with their brands. That will make it more likely that they’ll sell those consumers more products, whether the place those products are sold is real or virtual.”
Another article, by Chloe Wong in Retail Week, predicted: “If Apple’s increase in specialist shop floor roles such as Creative Pros is any indication, retail employees will act more as experts who deal with more knowledge-intensive queries, as transactions and basic questions will be increasingly undertaken by self-service terminals.”
In a recent Engageware webinar about personalization in retail, panelist Scott Duby, Director of Global Consumer Industry for IBM, addressed this Apple announcement and said it aligns with recent research he has seen about millennials, that they still actually like to get out, shop in physical stores, as well as gather and socialize.
In alignment with Duby’s thinking, Engageware’s recent survey of more than 5,000 consumers reveals that 71 percent of millennials report they plan to shop in physical stores as often as they did last year.
Duby also said that Apple’s retail plans follow the trend of retailers trying to optimize square footage, redesign their space to make it more inviting, and draw and attract more customers.
Webinar panelist Kim Garretson, principal of Realizing Innovation and BrainTrust panel commentator for RetailWire.com, agreed with Duby, also noting that Apple’s new stores chief formerly ran Burberry, which has a philosophy of inviting people into its stores to socialize with other fashion-forward people.
The comments by journalists and the webinar panelists confirm Engageware’s philosophy that a paradigm shift is happening in retail—and in customer experience overall. Consumers are not going to remain loyal to a brand purely based on products alone. Consumers will stay loyal when they feel they have a personalized experience and individual attention. Whether this is through one-on-one time with associates in a store or by video, or a class where you can learn tricks for getting the most out of your iPad Pro, these customer experiences will promote brand loyalty and increase the likelihood of future purchases.
That’s why companies that provide their customers easy-to-use self-service tools so they can schedule one-on-one time with knowledgeable store personnel will become the leaders in this new era of customer personalization. To the victors go the sales.
Photo Credit: Apple