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Friday, December 28, 2007

Ultimate Retail Experience: The Apple Store

Did you see The New York Times article titled Inside Apple Stores, a Certain Aura Enchants the Faithful by Katie Hafner from 12/27/2007? It offers a fascinating glimpse into what makes Apple stores so appealing.

Were you aware that Apple retail stores generate 20% of the company's revenue?

From the article [and personal observation], here's how - by creating a Third Place around technology products. A place for connecting and gathering, for lingering and interacting with product and meeting like-minded people. It's a source of knowledge, information, help and fun. The overall effect is inclusive, extremely welcoming and filled with an amazing level of personal service.

Remember what Chris Ramey referred to in What Luxury Marketing Can Teach Us? Successful stores are extremely customer-centric. The article describes The Apple Store as the Nordstrom of technology. That says a lot.

It shouldn't surprise you that I often refer to The Apple Store in retail experience presentations. My first ever experience at the SoHo store in Manhattan radically affected my appreciation for retail environments.... the buzz, the energy, the positive vibe of the crowd. Despite a not-so-inspiring-human-element when I first visited the 5th Avenue Apple store, I remain inextricably drawn to Apple Stores where ever I go. The stores themselves echo the simplicity of the Apple product, forming a simple, bright, engaging backdrop for interaction between shoppers and products. Isn't that the ultimate goal of a store?

This 12/17/2007 article titled Retail Design For 2008: Thinking Outside The Big Box refers to several stores including Apple that have "redefined retail as sort of a playground for adults." This development is not "an anomaly.... but rather a redefinition of a retail storefront as strictly a commercial medium." Retail is becoming more emotional and a place for "creating stories around the brand that connect with people beyond merchandising or designer names" per Marc Gobé.

Paco Underhill mentions sophisticated lighting and creating intimate retail spaces to help redefine retail environments. Gobé adds: "...Apple's Fifth Avenue shop use lighting and materials to "bring forth the brand." Looking at The Apple Store from that perspective, I absolutely see it all come together.

Combine that with the impeccable and impassioned personal attention that the NYT article describes and you get a must-see-for-yourself ultimate retail experience.

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