What’s More Important Than Competitive Pricing? Apple’s 5 Simple Secrets To Retail Success

This post is about how Apple changed retail -- and how you could emulate Apple to bring retail success to your business. Did you ever wonder how Apple enticed millions of people to visit their stores and pay full price when all their products are readily available at other retailers, and even tax-free online at Amazon.com? How did Apple become the highest performing stores in retail history with more than a million visitors every day? More important, how did a company with no experience in retail become the fastest in US history to reach annual sales of $1 billion during the worst financial crisis in modern times?  How did Apple achieve retail success -- without a word about price, or competition based pricing

Apple had to make their stores more than just a place people go to buy things. They had to devise a way to enrich the lives of the people who shop at the Apple Stores and to do more than simply deliver a transactional experience. In short, Apple reinvented retail.

These 5 "Secrets of Apple's Retail Success" by Steve Chazin, via RIS, can conceivably be used by any company to succeed in retail:

1. Think Different About Retail. 

Contrary to popular belief, Apple rarely invents anything new. Apple didn't invent the PC, the MP3 player, downloadable music, or the mobile phone. When Apple opened its first Apple Stores it had only four products -- two portables and two desktop computers -- the iPod, IPhone and iPad were not yet invented! The Mac, iPod, iTunes and iPhone were all successful because Apple "thought different" and improved upon existing designs and functionality.

Better than anyone else, Apple makes complex things simple, e.g. Mac was easier to operate than the PC, iPod let you easily "put" music into your pocket, iTunes let you quickly transfer music through a simple cable; in general, improve things without ever forcing you to sneak a peek at a user manual.

Extra-wide front doors, floor-to-ceiling windows, open air skylights and glass stairs give people a sense of freedom and feel less like they are in a retail outlet -- and more like they are in a museum. Provide a first-class retail experience that delights shoppers and visitors alike and makes them feel part of the community -- sales happen as a result of this focus on improving people's lives.

2. Apple Doesn't Sell "Products".

Has anyone ever seen the details of how an iPod works? It's not how it works, it's how it feels and the ease of what it does. Very simply, Apple focuses on what people do with their products and not what their product does -- deliver real value instead of just merchandise.

3. Empower The Customers.

Apple Stores are friendly, open spaces where visitors are actively encouraged to play with the products on display and to hang out as long as they want with others who also enjoy Apple products. And because they are always in the driver's seat, Apple Store customers feel good about their purchases -- AND they are willing to pay a premium for it. And yes, customers who make a connection with the store and staff tend to buy more, have fewer returns and greater loyalty increasing the total lifetime value of the customer.

4. Enrich Customers' Lives.

Retailers should ensure that their associates are not focused on selling products, but intent on helping shoppers see how your product or service could improve the way people communicate, work and play.

5. Go One Step Further.

A company's lasting relationship with their customers is tied to the moments before, during, and after their purchase. By doing more than is required to surprise and delight customers, Apple Store customers not only switch from competitive products but also become lifelong repeat customers, fans and evangelists.

Bottom Line For Your Bottom Line:

On March 14, 2012, after ten years of retailing, Apple's market capitalization became larger than the rest of the entire U.S. retail sector - combined.

Just as it improved the experience people have with their computers, their music and their phones, Apple reinvented the retail experience for the better. While Apple now has some distinctive products and a very powerful brand, it still uses this secret recipe to continue to achieve new retail successes -- a formula that any retailer can use. 

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Gilon Miller, CMO

About Author

Gilon is a seasoned marketing, sales and business development executive with over 15 years of experience in the software and Internet business. He is the Founder and CEO of GuruShots. Previously, Gilon was the CMO of Upstream Commerce, VP of Marketing at iMDsoft and Director of Global Marketing at SAP. He earned an MBA at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University.
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