The Apple Store is by far the most successful store in retailing history. The average Apple store makes $5,626 per sq feet, 17 times the average of $341 and still much more than high end stores such as Tiffany’s and Ralph Lauren. This is still a lot less than Apple’s online sales, but clearly the numbers show that they are doing something right. Their customers are also loyal and the love the in-store experience.
Not every store can do what Apple is doing. Their stores are flooded with staff there to help and compared to the average store, they are incredibly high tech. But there is more to it than that. Here are five things from my experience of shopping in Apple stores (I have a MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone) and from my experience of working in high end women’s fashion stores and department stores in the UK as a student:
1. Inspire your customers – Every person that has worked in a store is told to probe, probe and probe some more when it comes to a customer. Something that Apple Store staff do is generally find out more about the person shopping. What kind of job they have? “You fly a lot? So why not think about Passbook? I can show you…” How do they make their buying decisions? “You usually decide with your husband? Next time bring him along with you” – showing that you were not only listening but that you also care! I would take this one step further though. Finding out what a customers likes or doesn’t like, looking at their body shape, if they’ve walked in with a huge work bag, are they with children… Based on these observations and talking to a customer I would take the chance and make personal recommendations. You might not get it right the first time, but that’s ok. At times it would take me over 10 attempts to find the perfect shoe or dress. If you are taking the time to find the perfect item for the customer and are making sure that they are enjoying the experience, then that customer will leave feeling happy no matter what the outcome.
2. Get rid of the cashier – The cashier is just the person that sits behind the counter and takes the customers money. It’s very uninspiring and for some customers this is intimidating, as if to say, “only come to me if you want to pay”! As a rule I would have all staff members in front of the cash desk and talking to customers. Always have someone standing at the door to welcome customers with a hello/good morning and with a smile. When it’s time for the customer to pay, the member of staff helping them can take them over the the cash desk and take payment. Handing customers over to someone else at this late stage destroys any carefully built rapport. Your customers will think that the member of staff is just moving on to make their next sale.
3. Focus on experience rather than selling – In the Apple Store, customers can play with the products to see exactly what they can do. This ‘try before you buy’ approach is highly effective and there is the added benefit if there is a member of staff showing how to use the products. Ok, so not everyone is selling high end flashy gadgets, but even in a store selling clothes for example, it is possible to let customers try on an items with accessories (a belt, scarf, necklace, tie) or a pair of high heels. It doesn’t matter if they buy the extras or not. It shows that you’ve taken the time to help your customer have a positive experience in the store and that finding the right item for them is more important than selling. Putting together an entire outfit, especially gor men, goes a long way when it comes to providing excellent customer service and people will want to come back for more advice.
4. Create an uncluttered environment – Clutter forces the brain to consume energy. The brain naturally wants to conserve energy, so we are more attracted to things that have sharp contrast, strong visual appeal, emotional cues and a clear beginning vs. end message. A messy, cluttered store is cumbersome and difficult to navigate. You have to hunt out and search for things, which takes time and energy and it also forces the brain to go into thinking mode – the opposite of deciding mode and not good for getting shoppers to buy. Its fair to say that Apple doesn’t have a variety of products, so an uncluttered environment is easier to achieve but there are some simple things that retailers can do:
- Group items by color, making it easier ont he eye and for a customer to find a color that they are attracted to
- When it comes to clothing, only have one item for each size and have staff around to find items in a different size in the stock room. Its a great way to start talking to customers about what they are looking for, without sounding pushy or intimidating
- Don’t have all stock on the shop floor. Rotating your stock means that your store continues to look fresh and repeat customers will come in more often to see what is new or different
5. Have your staff embody your store – Apparently Apple only hire 2% of the people that apply to work there. It is actually easier for a person to get into Harvard, where the acceptance rate is 7%! If you want to have a team that embodies your store then make sure you find people that actually like what you are selling and who would want to buy, use or wear the products. Product knowledge is essential and its worth remembering that you are now likely to be competing with online retailers that have complete product information for all of their items somewhere on their website. Having first-rate knowledge of your products makes it much easier to sell and if your team isn’t enthusiastic about your store and about working there, they are not going to get your customers excited either.