Apple Reboots Retail Stores
Somewhere in the middle of the night on Sunday, the 22nd, a group of people were meeting to pull off the greatest caper in retail history. They quietly awoke Apple retail employees across the world to implement a new plan, Apple 2.0 the new store, using iPads as resource center to give customers an interactive experience. This included notifying store staff that they needed an assistant, or to make an appointment at the Genius Bar.
With all the secrecy surrounding the unveiling, which included some employees not knowing what was taking place until that morning when they arrived at the store, the entire project was over seen by Steve Jobs and his hot shot VP, Jonathan Ive, the fair-haired boy behind the signature Apple designs for products like iMac, iPod and the iPad.
Along with the face-lift of the retail space was the release of Retail 2.0, a new iOS app for use in retail stores, firing up the app users can ask for help, get product information, it also lists availability for the next opening at the Genius Bar, as well as workshops or events. However customers still have to do some legwork to find an employee at a designated location.
Smart Signs, iPad2s, encased and locked down next to products, including a iPad2, acted as interactive signage, with price information, specific to that product tools, and costing for wireless plans. Another experience for customers was to customize a Mac, and while this was available on the website, it is just now in retail stores with this upgrade.
In a note to investors, Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities commented that this new “overhaul” would “take Apple’s already highly successful stores “to the next level.” Brian when on to say, “additionally, we believe this initiative would save Apple money, as these displays can be refreshed much faster and cheaper versus printing, a concept other retailers could implement.
Despite the new larger signage, the new sound systems and comments from customers the changes have create a new experience, many industry watchers felt that the “overhaul” was underwhelming and did not live up to the hype and secrecy stirred up in the last few weeks.
Two things that come to mind when looking at this “innovative retail experience” is the profit going to be generated by the need for fewer “geniuses” and doesn’t this take that human factor out of the retail and consumer relationship, how interactive is an iPad?